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Walking Hungry – Merlin Gonzales

My knapsack was ready in the morning with two cold water bottles, a cooling towel, a face mask, a change of socks, and a MacBook.

I started walking from a Castleton pantry to a Nora pantry, about 5.5 miles. I want to experience how it feels to walk from a food pantry to another with an empty stomach.

At one of the intersections on 82nd Street, I noticed a woman in the media writing something on brown cardboard. I said Hi to her as I pass by and she said Hi. A few seconds later, she said, “Be careful out there.”

That prompted me to go back to have a quick chat with her. I found out that she’s been asking for money for six months and that she has to be at her “station” early enough so others won’t take her spot. She said that she needs to do it because she needs at least $16 every day to pay for her pain management/medication due to drug abuse in the past. She cannot have a real job, because it would take two weeks to receive her pay and she cannot afford not to have her daily medication, so she is stuck in that lifestyle for the moment. Furthermore, she said that her son does not know she is begging for money for a living. I told her that there’s a food pantry not too far from her spot. She said that it must be the same pantry where the lady delivers some food to her on Saturdays. She rides 2 – 3 buses from her home to her spot, and it takes 2 – 3 hours one way so she cannot receive perishable items. Plus, she can only receive a few items as she pointed to her blue knapsack. I prayed for her and her son before proceeding to my mission.

As the sun got hotter, I slowed down my pace to make sure I can get to my destination and maybe back. I drank a little water to quench my thirst, but not too much since I started to feel that I will have to go to a restroom soon, but there’s no establishment closeby. If you do not have a vehicle, you have to plan and become aware of your environment and, you need a lot of extra time to travel.

I did not make it to my destination (about half a mile away) because I have to stop by Starbucks to get a wifi connection for my online meeting at noon. After a few hours, I asked my wife to pick me up; I did not have enough energy to walk back. As soon as we got home, I fired up the grill to cook some chicken wings, zucchini, and red bell pepper.

As I was devouring the food, I noticed I repeatedly say thank you God for food. I really, really appreciate the food!

The second day of the Hunger Challenge taught me about the conveniences in life that we neglect to appreciate, some insight of life in the streets, and learned to appreciate food beyond just satisfying my appetite.

Merlin GonzalesWalking Hungry – Merlin Gonzales