This post is not about the chronic condition of heart failure. But it does address how this country is impacted by the pandemic - something which can cause anxiety which is not good for my hear.t So I've been trying to write about positive things because it helps my heart and quells the anxiety. I recently wrote a devotional for my church that quoted something my Mom always used to say to me when I would worry – Oh, ye of little faith. She was taking this straight from the Gospel of Matthew, when Christ rebuked his Disciples for their lack of faith during a violent storm. My sister appreciated the devotional because it brought our Mom to her mind.
I told my sister that I had again thought about something our Mom used to say a lot, and I wanted to tell her about it. Unfortunately, my Mom's words just slipped out of my brain. The next day in an e-mail my sister asked me if I had remembered my thought about Mom, and I said no. But later on in our e-mails, my sister said she had seen stories about milk being dumped, produce left to rot, eggs destroyed and meat dumped. As she pointed out, food banks would love these things if someone could just get the products to them.
As I read the e-mail, my Mom popped back into my mind. I immediately e-mailed my sister and said: “I remember what I thought about Mom. I saw an article the other day that said farmers were having to euthanize pigs because of the closure of some meat processing plants. I remembered Mom talking about Roosevelt drowning the pigs during the depression. Mom is probably looking down on us and saying - See girls. History does repeat itself.“
I remember that I first started hearing this story from my mother when I was a little girl and many times after. It always was accompanied by the fact that because of the lack of meat, she was forced to eat turnips, turnips, and even more turnips. Now, I’m sure that there were foods other than turnips on her dinner table. But just the mention of turnips would provoke an intense response.
By the time I I reached my teenage years, the mental eye-rolls would begin when I heard the turnip story. I would think to myself – “Not again! Will the next story going to be how far she walked to school in the winter? And is it my imagination, or does the distance she walked and the amount of snow that was on the ground increase each time she tells the story?”
My scorn was I think a product of my age and not a reflection on my Mom. When I was a teenager (as I think is normal), you just want to live in the present and so anything that happened more than 10 minutes ago is probably not relevant to you. Plus, it just seemed impossible to me – why would any President sanction the drowning of what for many in the depression was a critical food source? I also lacked the empathy to know what being in need felt like because my parents always provided for me. I failed to appreciate how blessed I was.
Then I grew up, studied history and the law, and honed my research skills. I can’t remember when I decided to perform some research to see what actually happened to the hogs during the depression. But I will tell you that whenever it was, I have a clear memory of being shocked. Here is the story, as recounted in an article by Edward Lotterman on the Minneapolis Federal reserve webpage:
For people like my Mom and Dad, who grew up the children of poor farmers in rural Missouri, the action was much more than a public relations disaster. It was a slap in a very hungry face. But as I researched the killing of the pigs during the depression, I remembered other details about my Mom’s early life. For example, she lived in a house that had no indoor plumbing. She had none of the modern conveniences that we all take for granted. But this shaped her in a very positive way, motivating her to be a persistent, energetic and creative force of nature. She developed an inner strength that helped her to always prevail over any challenge that came her way.
Having visited her home as an adult a number of times, seeing where they used to live and where she went to school – I could believe that it was a long walk in the cold, snowy winters. It explained to me how she became so strong with a stamina that would last her well into her later years. She was able to walk each day outside in a variety of weather conditions for an hour or more well into her 80s.
I also knew that my Mom was gifted when it came to sewing. Her home economics teachers at school would ask her for sewing advice because she was so gifted. Her talent for making stunning outfits was legendary (sometimes deviating from the pattern but always improving the garment). I remember that she would tell us that they were so poor that her family could not afford to buy fabric. As a result, she made dresses out of flour sacks. I bet they were awesome. Her resourcefulness and ability to adapt came in handy as she raised four children while my Father often traveled with his job.
But even though my Mom weathered many early storms in her life, I could see why she would have a visceral reaction when she heard the word “turnip”. But that same visceral reaction to the poor circumstances she and my Dad were raised under made them determined that their children would be loved and would never ever want for food, clothing and the chance to get a good education. I thank God every day for sending me such wonderful, caring and loving parents.
Now their experiences become relevant in a time when many are in need of things we take for granted. The memories of my parents’ lives, especially now that we are dealing with hard times in self isolation due to the corona virus, is eerie. Whoever would have thought that in a century filled with great advances in technology and the ability to buy anything that you want on line at any hour of the day and have it immediately delivered – who would have thought we would be experiencing a lack of goods similar to that of our depression era family members? Who would have dreamed that we could be killing animals that should be destined for the dinner table and for food banks across the country but will never arrive?
I decided to find out why we have once again turned to the euthanization of pigs in a time of crisis. According to a Washington Post article on May 1 by David Pitt:
The circumstances causing the mass killing of pigs is a little different than those of the depression. It isn’t an action designed to impact the economy. Instead, it is a very simple matter that the pigs have to be sent forward for processing and the meat processing plans are closed or full.
The same article provided an example of efforts, not necessarily successful, to address the hunger issue:
The USDA has a program designed to connect farmers with local meat lockers and small processors that can slaughter some hogs and donate the meat to food banks. However, that effort has been hindered by the fact that small processors already were overwhelmed with customers who have turned away from mass-produced meat and instead bought a hog or cow to be processed locally. Chuck Ryherd, owner of State Center Locker in State Center, Iowa, said he’s almost completely booked through the end of the year and has been turning away customers.
I realize that not everyone advocates meat as a protein source. But even if you don’t eat meat, well it isn’t just the meat market that has taken a hit from the corona virus. A May 5, 2020 article in the Los Angeles Times has the title “Rotting food. Hungry masses. Chaotic supply chains. Coronavirus upends the U.S. food system”. According to this article, fresh produce has also been a victim of the corona virus: "Crops planted months before based on pre-pandemic demand spoiled without buyers. Billions of dollars’ worth of produce went to waste, much of it tilled back into the soil, said Cathy Burns, CEO of the Produce Marketing Assn., which represents produce companies."
The article discusses the various links in the process, from the farmers all the way to the retail outlets and food banks. According to a person associated with a food coalition, the key is to keep adapting as the landscape changes. For food banks and those feed the homeless, the answer might be discontinuing hot meals or an opportunity to “shop” the food bank for groceries. Instead, provide “to-go” bags.
Of course, as one adapts to the changing landscape, one must be sensitive to adverse consequences. The Washington Post article mentions that the President has invoked the provisions of the Defense Production Act to keep the meat processing plants open. But this action also is controversial because employees of some plants were found to have the virus. With a virus that is so widespread, an action that relieves one segment of the population might put another segment of the population at risk. There are no easy answers to any of the issues we face in the foreseeable future.
When there are no easy answers, I know of one place you can always turn. You can rely on your faith to help you and those in need through such a challenging time. You can also look for those points of light that help provide light while we search to find the end of the tunnel – and you can even shine some of those lights. I know in my church, some of the people who are not part of the vulnerable population are helping food distribution sites provide food to those in need, or who are offering to do shopping for those who can’t get to the store. In the building where I live, some of the younger residents have also offered to help the elderly in our building get groceries.
There are people that have the same awesome sewing skills that my mother possessed. They are using those skills to make cloth masks for both medical personnel, and for normal people like you and me who need to cover their face in public. Not having any of these skills, I am so grateful to them for the homemade masks they made for me.
I think people are also becoming more judicious about what they buy and how much they consume. We all heard about the run on toilet paper and cleaning supplies and eggs and other hard to get items. People have started to become more sensitive to others needs, perhaps offering to split the last carton of eggs with another shopper or handing over one of two rolls of toilet paper in their cart to someone who is looking forlornly at the empty shelves. I know where I live, we may pick up goods each other needs if they are in stock when we are out shopping. We also provide updates on websites that might have the item someone needs to buy. Sometimes it is just as simple as being more conservative in your meal servings during a time of crisis, with the thought that if we consume less, we buy less and leave more for others.
There are people who are using a variety of talents to facilitate online meetings, church services, doctor appointments and other gatherings that used to be held in a public setting. While the personal touch in all of these venues is always preferable, well when you’re sick, or in need of fellowship, or in need of spiritual support, online opportunities are absolutely acceptable, extremely appreciated and even fun.
I am sure you have seen other stories of how people are being unselfish and accommodating needs of others during this very uncertain and terrifying time. It is true that history has a way of repeating itself. But the human race is still here despite all the setbacks, disasters, plagues and calamities that have occurred century after century. In order to help each other make it through the tunnel, we need to invest some advance thought and planning. Even in cash strapped times, we can find ways to give that may not require money but still show a respect and caring for other members of the human race.
For me, it comes down to an enlightening epiphany. God built in us a resilience and a determination to prevail. If we work together, we can weather this storm and even find a rainbow.
Melanie discovered that she had heart failure in 2013. She spent the next 7 years learning how to live with the condition, and how to achieve balance and personal growth. Then in October 2020, she received a heart transplant. This blog is about her journey of the heart.