5/15/2012 1:40:00 PM
This Thursday when Primeau and I will be at Sobey's in support of The Edmonton Food Bank I know I'll be thinking back to a darker time in my life.
About 25 years ago I found myself recently divorced, broke and alone with 2 kids who needed winter jackets and food. I had been fired by my employer and given a severance cheque of $1.36. It was the amount owed me after deducting for the 2 weeks I had taken off earlier in the year that I hadn't yet qualified for. I deserved to be fired. I hadn't been focused on my job. My life had spiralled out of control after my divorce and I was focused only on fighting my ex-wife for custody of my children. The battle had left me emotionally exhausted and financially broke.
I walked along the street with a box containing personal items from my desk and ended up at the offices of Trustee in Bankruptcy. I filed for bankruptcy to protect myself from creditors that we're circling to take what little I had left. My leased car had been repossessed earlier in the day, my girlfriend had moved out taking everything from our rented house except my clothes the night before, and I had no one I could go to for help.
I remember riding the LRT back out to the NE being very careful to watch for those security guys that check for your ticket. I didn't have one. I couldn't afford it.
I got home to find a note from my landlord telling me I had 48 hours to pay the overdue rent or I would be evicted. I remember Ashley, 5 or 6 years old at the time, saying I could have whatever was in her piggy bank. She didn't know that money had already been taken by my girlfriend when she moved out. The power had been cut off to the house. The phone line was dead. The refrigerator was empty.
I had heard of the food bank but I didn't know what it was or how you went about qualifying to use it. I walked miles to the Food Bank with my 2 kids. I remember being asked how many adults and how many children I needed to feed. There was no judgement. There were no forms to fill out. I don't even think they asked me my name. As they put together the box for me to take home I began to break down. I realized I had no way to get this box home. A volunteer stopped what she was doing and put her arms around me. She told me I was going to be okay. She offered to drive me home. She took me by the welfare office to obtain emergency funds. She explained what I do with the vouchers for clothing. She gave me hope.
I rebuilt my life over the next few months. I took a job I was over qualified for. I worked through the bankruptcy. I started comedy to bring in a few extra bucks and I met my wife of 20 years. I never cashed that cheque for $1.36. It's framed and hanging above my desk in my home office. A constant reminder that no matter how bad things get they could be worse. And I've never forgotten who was there to catch me when I fell. The Edmonton Food Bank. Over the years I ALWAYS donate to the Food Bank and I NEVER wonder if it's just there to feed people too lazy to work. It's not.