Carlos was waiting in the Metro Caring lobby when I arrived for my afternoon shift. He was here to receive his monthly allotment of fresh food and since he was 45 minutes early he had to sit and watch while others were checked in and served. When his turn came Carlos made his way to my office, number four, and was breathing heavily as he sat down.
“How’s your day going?” I ask him as he shows me his ID.
“Very well,” he smiles. “I made it!”
“Yes you did.”
“I’m seriously happy I’m here, I had to walk today,” he sighs as he puts his identifying letter and Drivers License back in his bag.
“At least you had a bit of shade,” I offer, “I’m glad we’re getting some clouds after all these sunny, hot days.”
“Yeah, good thing too. It took me four hours to get here,” he says as he wipes his forehead.
“Four hours?” I look at him back timing how long he was on the road, on his feet, “You walked for four hours?”
“Left at 8 this morning, I had to stop several times because my back doesn’t work so good anymore.”
The last time I walked for four hours I was sightseeing, or hiking. Not making my way on city streets to get a box of food.
“I’m glad Metro Caring is here for you,” I say, “even if it’s so far away.”
As the words leave my mouth I hope it doesn’t sound trite. How could I tell Carlos what I’m really thinking? I have never ever considered walking for hours to get food, I’ve always had so many options, like a car, or my bike, or public transportation. He walked for four hours? Would I do that for my family?
“Are you kidding me?” he interrupts, “My girlfriend and I, we depend on Metro Caring. We have a calendar on our Frigidaire so we know when it’s 30 days and we can come in again for this great food. It’ll last us more than a week!”
“And your girlfriend, did she walk too?”
“Naah, she didn’t feel well today. But she’s my backbone, she’s what keeps me straight,” he says.
All I can muster is a nod.
“I met her two years ago, we were both living in a park a few blocks from here. I’d just gotten out of prison and had nowhere to go. But we got on real well and now we have a life together and we’re not on the streets,” he beams.
“Are there any other services we can help you with today?” I ask handing him a laminated sheet that Metro Caring provides to anyone who comes in their doors.
He looks over the list, “No, the food will be great. Oh, I do need batteries for my hearing aids, do you have any?”
“Sorry,we don’t,” I say, but give him a few suggestions on where he may be able to find them.
And then I realize I have something else.
“Would you like a bus pass to get home?”
“Yes,” Carlos says as his grin gets wider, “there’s no way I could take all that food and walk with it, thank you.”
I hand him the bus pass and he shakes my hand.
“Nice to meet you, Lois,” Carlos says as he stands up to walk out the door, “who knows, maybe you’ll be here the next time I come in?”
“I certainly hope so,” I say as he goes back to the lobby anxious to get in the Metro Caring ‘store’ to shop for vegetables, fruit, pasta, dairy products, bread and meats.
When I was introduced to the work of Metro Caring, Denver’s leading hunger-relief organization I was amazed to discover the staff and volunteers are there to provide nutritious food to hungry families and individuals while promoting health and self-sufficiency. And on top of all that Metro Caring helps anyone in need with no income or geographic requirements.
Every Story Matters is a collection of conversations with the people I meet who give me permission to share how Metro Caring is serving their households with dignity and respect.