Help Isn’t Always Wanted

I took these photos back in St. Marks with friends, while tasting food from Japadog and Otafuku. This is from the Saint Mark’s Church Green Market. Quite delectable right? Such fresh produce available in a bustling city, miles away from large fields.

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This farmer market is part of the Greenmarket initiative from GrowNYC. It was founded in 1976 to connect small farmers with city residents. Not only do the farms get to sell their harvest, but New Yorkers had access to fresh produce. Win-win situation, right? It has expanded to 54 markets with over 230 farms and fishermen providers!

Last summer, I interned at the Food Bank for NYC through the Bank of America Student Leaders, a program for students involved in community service who just completed their junior or senior year of high school. I was at the Union Square Green Market at the Food Bank stand. We were able to predict if someone was eligible for Supplemental Nutritional Food Program (SNAP), or Food Stamps. My job was to encourage people to see if they were eligible. Many people are ashamed of even applying and choose not to. I passed out flyers, and was mostly ignored.

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I remember seeing a Asian senior citizen. She would wander around, back and forth, near a stand offering samples. She would also take produce that fell to the ground, and was no longer wanted. I talked to my supervisor and she said that they’ve tried to help people similar to her but they are often too proud to admit needing help.

Sometimes, people just don’t want your help. Even if you think you can improve their lives, they won’t accept it. Either from pride or ignorance, you have to accept it. I was talking to a woman who appeared to be, well, on the rough side of life. She had disheveled hair and wore a heavy coat, despite it being summer. She had a bag of Doritos chips. I tried offering her a flyer. She refused, and I said it might be very interesting to her. Then she turned around and said no, and while talking, crumbs of chips spat from her mouth and onto my arm. I was stunned.

I guess that is something we need to consider when people march into Third World Countries and claim that they can help the people. Similar to during the colonial era, Europeans claimed to be helping the natives by forcing them to take on their customs and religion. You might think their situation is pitiful, but maybe they’re content with their lifestyle. Or maybe they want to be left to their own devices. Sometimes, you have to go on with your life. It’s great to give help, but make sure that the people want to receive it before you tell them what is right and wrong.

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