I had to pick up coffee, milk, cream, and little glass jars on the way to work on Tuesday. I didn't manage to get the jars.
"There she is!" My coworker as I walked into work.
"Hey, Trace! I'm sorry it took me so long . . . I move slowly, and I missed so many buses. I'm so tired."
"Oh, right, the Challenge . . . ohh!"
She gave me a hug. I put my bags down. One of the women walked over and held out a banana.
"Oh, thank you, but I can't accept free food . . . "
"You're not paying anything for it," she insisted.
"Yeah, but it's breaking the rules . . ."
My coworker spoke up. "But that can't be the rules because that's not how it works—people living on welfare can go to the Women's Centre, or UGM, or lots of places and get free food, so you have to be allowed to eat it!"
"That's true, but the point of the Challenge is to demonstrate that people have to go to those places because the $18 per week that welfare affords people simply is not enough in the first place."
They muttered and exchanged disapproving looks. The woman put the banana decisively down on my desk. Later, we were sitting at the table together and I had my breakfast.
At some point, my boss stopped in. She didn't know that I was doing the Welfare Food Challenge.
"Oh, well it's good that I have lots of lunch today! You can have some."
"Thank you so much, but I can't acc—"
"She won't accept it." My coworker, maybe a little frustrated.
"What? Why? But it's free!" said my boss.
"Yeah, but the point is I'm supposed to be able to live on $18. The government supposes that I can do that."
My boss looked at my coworker, totally confused.
"But you can have a cup of coffee . . . it's free here! If you were a woman on welfare coming to our program, you could have a coffee, so you can have a coffee."
My coworker bolstered the argument. Full agreement.
"Mmm, I can't though . . . the point of the Challenge is that I wouldn't be able to afford that coffee with the $18 that the government presumably has afforded me."
"But it's free."
"But it shouldn't have to be free. I should be able to buy myself coffee. But I needed calories, carbs, and protein, and that's all I could afford. No coffee. That's the point."
We went back out to the studio and they had lunch, one a mix of potatoes and veggies, and the other some sort of stirfry. I didn't want to eat just then because I knew I was heading to Tsawwassen after work, so I wouldn't be able to eat dinner until 9:30 or 10:00. A.k.a., eat a late lunch.
"Are you sure you don't want some?" My boss.
"Yeah, I'm good."
"I feel so bad eating in front of you . . . "
"Oh, no, don't! It's okay! I actually don't really mind people eating in front of me. It's not the feeling of hunger so much that gets to me as it is the feeling of just sheer fatigue . . . "
They ate their lunch. My coworker couldn't finish hers and offered the leftovers to me. I declined. Eventually, I ate my banana (my own banana).
Throughout the rest of the day, I'm not really sure what happened. I was so tired. We did an orientation with a new volunteer, there was reiki toward the end of the day, and somewhere along the line, I ate my instant noodles and forgot to take a photo. (In case anyone needed more monotonous pictures of the same monotonous food I've been eating). One of the Housing Outreach Workers visited us at the end of the day and asked me how the Challenge was going.
"Ohhhh . . . " I think I said.
"You look a little loopy . . . " she said, evaluating.
"She is," said my coworker.
Oh, and Kathy came to visit!
"Kathy!!!!" I got up and gave her a big hug. "How are you?!"
"Oh, god . . . hungry! And I've had a headache for three days! How are you?!"
Interestingly enough, I had forgotten that we were doing the Challenge together. I was just so happy to see her. But I was comforted by remembering that we were in it together.
"Oh, I'm okay . . . I'm a little out of it, apparently. I can't function properly. My brain isn't working."
"Yeah . . . no one can live on this!"
We caught up, talked about the usual - homelessness, the housing crisis, the ridiculousness of welfare of course, you know.
"Well, I should get going. It's Day 3 and I feel like we can do this, but this is the hardest day yet because I've got a free dinner to go to—but I've got my noodles and tomato sauce! And an apple!"
"That's AMAZING! That's an amazing dinner! Wow!"
"Yeah! I mean, relative to the rest of what I've been eating, I'm excited for my noodles! But man, it's gonna be hard!"
"You can do it!"
She can do it. (She will do it).
And by that I mean she won't cave. She won't eat anything outside her $18 for the week. But she'll be changed. She was already. So was I. By the end of the day, I realized I'd forgotten to go back out and pick up those little glass jars. My coworker agreed to stay late to accommodate the reiki and assured me that she'd pick up the jars later in the week. She told me to go home, so I did.
I was going home to my parents' house because our dog hasn't been well for pretty much (if not more than) this whole year, and recently he has seemed really bad, so my mom advised me to come home. However, she'd said that somehow, for no apparent reason, he'd perked up earlier in the day and was acting completely normal, so I had the pleasure of opening the door to hear the pitter patter of paws running down the stairs and Guinness running to see me as I stepped in the house. I patted him and scratched him and sat with him and listened to how he'd been doing. Then ate supper.
I had forgot the ginger that I'd bought at my grandma's house and had opted not to bring the eggs for fear of them breaking in transit, so it was just plain rice and lentils for dinner. Even without the ginger and eggs though, I'm getting the hang of this dish.