Gratitude Had Been Replaced By Entitlement
My mother is an incredible woman. I know that seems shallow and lots of people say that about their moms but my mom is TRULY an incredible woman. For 25 years she has been running a food pantry that now services some 900 families a month with over 10,000 pounds of food, and she does this out of her house. Every Wednesday and Thursday from 11:30 AM to 6:30 PM she has an endless stream of people that rely on her more and more for their weeks groceries and she has served the faithfully without a single shutdown. She also serves as a FEMA pantry should emergencies arise and that has been the case on more than one occasion.
I recently had quite a long conversation with Mom about how things have changed for her over the years and what challenges she faces now that she didn't face before. The biggest challenge she has is in the changing attitudes of the people she serves. She refers to and treats them as "clients". She gives the people that pass through her doors every courtesy that she possibly can and treats each and every one with as much respect as she can. That respect used to be returned but the attitdues of her clients has been getting worse and worse.
When Mom first opened almost everyone that came to her door did so with a great amount of humility bordering on embarassment. They never made specific requests and they never refused anything given to them. They were always grateful and many offered to work in the pantry in exchange for the food. Many felt ashamed that they had to be there and they were the ones mom tried to console the best that she could. She made sure they knew there was no shame in needing some help and she was sure the situation was only temporary. She also knew that her help was being asked as a last resort when all else failed.
As the years went on, and particularly in the last 5 years the attitudes have changed in many clients from gratitude to entitlement.
Let me be clear, this does not apply to all of her clients. Mom stresses that those that have recently fallen on hard times are always grateful for what she does and they have the same attitude she saw 25 years ago. Those that have been "in the system" for an extended period of time are the ones I am referring to here.
Mom is having a growing problem with folks that seem to think they are entitled to her help and treat her as such. Many are very condescending, demanding and down right rude. Let me give you a couple of examples from just this week:
Client #1: Came to the pantry with a written list of what was and was not acceptable for her to recieve. Highlighted on the bottom of the list in bold letters: NAME BRAND PRODUCT ONLY, NOTHING "STORE BRAND" OR GENERIC PLEASE!"
Client #2: A single mom of 3 ran through $500 in food stamps in just 10 days and expressed frustration that the vegetables she was recieving were canned.
Client #3: Complained about having to wait.
Client #4: Complained about having to provide even the most basic information as he felt it was a violation of his privacy rights.
Last year one of my mom's clients stole her purse right out of the living room. They caught the thief two days later when she used mom's credit card to buy groceries (ironic) and used her personal bonus card to make the purchase. That gets a "stupid criminal" bonus.
Again, let me be clear. This is not EVERYONE that goes to mom for help but the numbers are growing and it is causing my mom to question if she wants to continue the work. She does this on a COMPLETLEY volunteer basis. She collects no salary and receives no benefits. The frustration of dealing with more and more people like I outline above has her wondering if it's worth it anymore. It's the people that are grateful that keeps her going.
Whether she retires or continues, I have stressed to mom that she has made a huge difference in many peoples lives.
She gives me quite an example to follow and some huge shoes to fill.