The past four years have been mind-blowing in the Petersen household, here in Southern Orange County. We are all running around, working hard, trying to earn a dollar and then turning around and spending $1.50, thinking that extra $.50 would come from somewhere. It never does.
It didn’t always used to be this way. My husband worked for 25 years as a mortgage and real estate broker, owned his own companies, and we were fine until the whole economy shut down starting in 2008. That is when reality hit us in the face. What are we going to do now?
We had to start borrowing from friends and family to help pay our bills. We built up the balance on our credit cards. Meanwhile, my husband spent time volunteering with the police department’s search and rescue division and went back to school to earn his Doctorate of Theology. We were planning for the future, but we really needed help in the present.
In 2009, we started buying reduced-price groceries from a local nonprofit. By the end of the year, we could no longer afford to do this. At the time, my 11-year-old son was signed up to go to a local food pantry to serve with his bible study group, so I attended with him. This opened our eyes to a whole new world – the world of serving others and not just ourselves. What a reality check!
Our family soon decided to join our son by volunteering at the pantry. At this agency, which receives food from the Feeding America member: Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County, we stocked shelves, boxed food for needy families, and trained new volunteers. I was so happy my boys were learning the art of serving others.
After a couple months of volunteering, I felt God wanted me to ask for some food assistance. Well, I was not raised knowing anything about food pantries, and never thought of asking for groceries. This was very humbling! But my family found much comfort from the food pantry’s leader, Rana Muncy, and the other volunteers who were there to help.
We started receiving our groceries at the food pantry around March 2010, and were able to get boxes of good food every 30 days. This food pantry works hard to be able to meet my dietary restrictions, and we save about $500 month on groceries. My sons are always so anxious to get the food home so they can see what they got! They are never dissatisfied; it is food that God has blessed us with.
Things are starting to look so much better for my family. Eric, my husband, has just started to work as a medical device representative for his brother, who is an orthopedic surgeon in Florida. We are slowly but surely starting to dig ourselves out of the deep financial hole that has been created, but we still need a little assistance from the food pantry.
I am so moved by the help my family has been able to receive, and the opportunity to give back. The giving at the food pantry – through the support of the folks from Feeding America and the Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County — has really anchored our family to reality.
Now I know that life is not about earning as much as you can so you can spend as much as you can so that you can acquire as much as you can. The more you give, the more blessed you are in return. We’ve learned you need to aspire to inspire before you expire.