Gluten Free and Dang Lucky

Every superhero has their trusty weapon. Wonder Woman rocks her golden lasso; Batman probably sleeps in his tool belt; and for Superman, a bad cape-day beats a bad hair-day hands down. I'm no real superhero, but every Tuesday, I try to better the world just a little. And I use peanut-butter-jelly-sandwiches to do it. 

Every Tuesday night, I'm crawling through the streets of Downtown San Diego. My hands, the only skin not swathed in fabric, shiver and tighten around the white bags heavy with food and water bottles. But even though I'm freezing, I smile. Because I'm at one of PLNU's weekly homeless ministries.

For this chilly nights, I go prepared!

When I went on my first trip, I stuck to the group with the dedication of a college senior counting down graduation. I saw the tent first. A couple of them actually, patched fabric homes forming their own makeshift neighborhood. 

"Food! Water!" We shouted, watching as lined faces and calluses hands popped out of the zippered doors. At first, my fingers inched back, but now I like to feel the connection between their hands and mine. Like to hope that I'm impacting more than their stomachs. 

As great as I feel handing out peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwiches and lunch bags filled with the traditional goodies (ham and cheese on whole wheat with an apple and potato chips), I can't help but wonder if any of their stomachs rebel even as their taste buds dance from a springy slice of bread. 

We give something like this...

What would I do if lived on the streets? Would I scrape ham and cheese off wheat and hope for the best? Or would I give in and scarf down whole PB&J's, only for my tent to transform into an intestinal ER hours later? Or would I live off apples and bananas, being "that lady" - the one ungrateful enough to reject food free from cost and full of love? 

Honestly, I don't know. One thing I do know is that someone must be making those decisions right now. Just last year, studies report that 600,000 people are homeless on any given night; the NFCA finds that 1 in 133 Americans has celiac disease. I haven't taken math for a year, but with a rudimentary calculation, that means there is possibly 6,000 celiacs living - and eating - on the streets. And my heart can't help but ache for those whose survival mechanisms - accepting any and all available food - are also death sentences

Life and Death?

So, on Tuesday night, I don't leave the San Diego streets empty-handed. With every bag I give away, I get something in return: encouragement to do my homework, teasing that I could be the first female president and more "God bless you"'s than I can count. Mostly, though, I get a reminder.

A reminder to not complain of classes, but feel grateful for the education many of these folks missed. To not mind when my food is late, but to savor every safe bite. Most importantly, though, to not feel unlucky because my celiac gene decided to flip a switch. Because I am lucky - more than lucky - to have the medicinal food to treat it.

I'll say it again. I'm no super hero, but every time I hand out a peanut-butter-and-jelly-sandwich I'm impacting lives. Others' lives, maybe.

Mine? Beyond sure

Slaying the dragon one sandwich at a time!


What are you thankful for, even if you must eat gluten free? Have you ever considered what the gluten free homeless do? Comment below! 

Comments

  1. I always think about that when natural disasters happen like hurricanes and bad tornadoes. I wonder what people who have food allergies/intolerances do in those situations.If I was in that situation and had nothing to eat but what was available, I honestly don't know what I would do. I think it's great that you are helping out the homeless though!

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  2. Definitely! I never thought about it until you pointed it out, but I definitely need to update my emergency food supply since my diagnosis! Yikes! It's scary to be so vulnerable in such a way, but if anything, we'll be the best prepared people on the block! Thanks for the comment and adding to the conversation!

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  3. I've actually seen requests for GF food in food pantries before, which was such a nice sign. They reserve GF and allergy friendly food for those with celiac and allergies, etc. But, I'm fairly certain they're low most of the time too.

    Beyond having access to GF food, I'm also always thankful for the support of my family. I'm the only celiac, and they are all so careful with their food and informing their guests about what's GF in our house. Even my extended family reads my blog and buys some of my favorite products (so I don't worry about cross contamination). I've heard so many stories of family members that don't understand (and I have one cousin that certainly doesn't get allergies at all), so I'm appreciative of them every day!

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    1. That's good to know that some places have a few options! I am also lucky enough to have an awesome family who buys me lots of gluten free food and products. I know of the horror stories that you've heard about, and I can't imagine having to face the world of gluten free alone! Thank goodness for family that understands! :)

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