P. S. Some Real Les Mis, Paris Texas Style

I wasn't planning this post, but I do like it when life throws me a post script


On Sunday, December 30, 2012,  my family slept late, so instead of going to "Big Church"  (as we call it, which means the traditional service at  First Methodist Church, Paris), we went to Connections, which is the contemporary off-site ministry.  Now, Connections is a place of worship, but, as its title indicates, it is more than a place of worship, it is a place to connect.  As a part of its mission, it incorporates actual service, even on Sunday morning.  So every time there is a "5th" Sunday in a month, everybody gathers and does hands on work, as needed in Paris, Texas.

This Sunday was a 5th Sunday of the month Sunday and the Connections ministry, unbeknownst to my family until we showed up, was to go stock the local food pantry, called the Downtown Food Pantry. When I heard this, I couldn't have been more thrilled, for many reasons.

This picture and all other pictures taken from the Downtown Food Pantry's Facebook Page

You would think in this day and age that we would be light years away from the needy.  And frankly, many of us  are -- we live sheltered lives.  We socialize with, work with, go to school with, and live with (or near) people just like us.  We don't have to see any of the needy if we don't want to.  We don't have to know what it is like to truly be in need.  

But as a lawyer and being married to a lawyer, I've never had that luxury.  I am so glad we got the opportunity to help, especially with Les Miserables weighing so heavily on our minds.  

Les Miserables is one of the few novels that I know of that retains its foreign name.  But translated, it can means any of the following:  The Miserable, The Wretched, The Miserable Ones, The Poor Ones, The Wretched Poor, or The Victims.

We still have too many who suffer in this world, and Paris Texas is no different.  Before we began helping restock the Food Pantry's shelves, we were reminded of some facts by the Director, Chuck Burton.  First, Paris has 23% at poverty level.  Last year, the Food Pantry fed  over 10,000 households in our county, Lamar County, which is about 20% of our total population.  Although a household could obtain food from the Food Pantry a maximum of 26 times a year (twice a month) and some do, the average is about 7 times a year.  If you don't live in Lamar County,  you cannot obtain groceries, except perhaps the one time that you first come in our doors (this is monitored by a computer system), but then you will be provided information about the food pantry in your area.  And people do come from all over -- it is no wonder because our Food Pantry is really very innovative.  

 The Downtown Food Pantry grew from a closet in our church and in many churches in our city, into a well stocked building that is manned by about 30 volunteers each day it is open (twice a week).  The volunteers range from regulars to special groups such as our group on Sunday, or other area groups, such as the Paris Junior College Dragons Baseball team, pictured below.  

It is also supported by donations from many businesses and individuals, as well as by the North Texas Food Bank.  

The building is amazing, with loading docks and even a donated fork lift. 

But the best part about it is the dignity that has been put back into the process by the creative genius of some people who truly care for their fellow men, some Jean Valjeans of our time.  They conceived of a "shopping" area, rather than just a prestocked bag of food items, and they made it happen.  

The person in need gets a shopping list that tells you how many grains you may have, meats, fruits, vegetables, etc, and then they get a shopping cart, so that they get to choose which of those items they want for their quota.  When they check out, the "checker"  helps them load their items in recycled plastic bags (yes, PLEASE donate yours).  The checker also makes sure that the shopper obtained the correct number of the foods of their choice.  

As the recession hit harder and harder throughout the country and in our area, the need for food was on an extreme rise; at the same time that the Food Pantry obtained the building through a grant, which was remodeled with the talent and sweat of many volunteers, and the rest is history.  

Look at what it was like before!
It truly was special to get to volunteer down there as a family, as we put our faith to work for others. 

I was still basking in the glow of my happiness over our luck when we returned to our truck and realized that, through a comedy of errors, we had failed to lock it, and my purse -- (with many of my Christmas gifts foolishly in it) had been stolen.  Another Les Mis moment itself, but with so many silver linings even in that ordeal that I wouldn't go back and do it any differently.  Well, I would have made sure the car was locked or left the purse/gifts at home, but otherwise, I wouldn't have changed a thing. 

So I guess what I am saying here is, if you experience Les Mis, I hope you get the opportunity for a P.S.  And the thing is, I know that you all purposefully do, I know I am preaching to the choir.  That is what I love so much about Paris, Texas, and that is the truth.  This place is amazing. 


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