Things Rarely Go According to Plan

Things Rarely Go According to Plan 1920 1280 Harry Chapin Food Bank

As a fifth-grade teacher, Carleen knows that you can create the perfect lesson on paper, but things rarely go according to plan. A good teacher learns not to panic and how to ease back toward the lesson at hand.

For Carleen and her family, life has been a six-month struggle to keep moving forward through the challenges of the pandemic.

In the early days, Carleen pooled all of her resources so she could continue supporting her two children, as well as her parents. She kept calm and quickly transitioned her lessons to online learning. Things began to go sideways when restaurants, businesses, and her children’s activities started closing their doors. Social distancing restrictions forced Carleen to give up her second job as a private tutor. She tightened her strained budget even more, but she could see that it wasn’t going to be enough.

Carleen always encourages her students to ask for help if they need it. Though her pride told her to tough it out, she knew she needed to reach out and accept the help of others.

Carleen is just one of the hundreds, maybe thousands, of new faces that the pandemic has pushed to our distribution lines over the past six months.

When Carleen pulled into our drive-thru distribution in late March, her ten-year-old son, Dustin, and five-year-old daughter, Jamielyn, were with her. It was the first time the family had ever been in line for food—an experience that became a life lesson in humility and gratitude. As the volunteer finished loading food into their car, Dustin shouted out his heartfelt thanks from the window. At that moment, Carleen knew she’d made the right choice for her family.

Life is by no means back to normal for Carleen’s family, but they are managing each day as it comes. She swears she’ll never forget the kindness and compassion they received and hopes to one day give back to those who were there for her family.

While we are continually refining and expanding our response to the pandemic, we know that we have a long way to go. In the meantime, we will be here for families like Carleen’s and will heed the advice of Carleen’s son, Dustin, who told us that when things start getting hard, “the key is not to panic.” It sure sounds like Dustin would make a great fifth-grade teacher one day.