I'm a giver by nature.  Several years ago, my husband and I were doing pretty well for ourselves.  At least pretty well by my standards, which means we brought in $18,000 that year.  I went to the bank to pull out the money for rent (we always paid with money order, the landlord preferred them) and then went to the grocery store next door to the bank to do some shopping.  There was a woman there with four kids.  Their clothes were clean, but obviously worn.  You could see the signs of hunger in their faces.

As she walked down the aisle, she'd pick something up, look at the price, and then decide whether she could afford it or not.  As I watched her go through the store, she put back much more than she actually put in her cart.  She ended up with a half gallon of milk, a bag of cereal, and a case of ramen noodles.

I overheard one of the children whispering, "Momma, do we have to have ramen again for dinner?"

"I'm sorry, we don't have the money for more right now."

Right there I made a decision.  I walked up to her, handed her $100, said, "You need this more than I do right now."  And walked away.  I got in my truck, and drove to my husband's work and told him what I'd done.

He wasn't exactly pleased.  I hadn't given the rent money away.  Nor had I given the grocery money away.  It was money that would have been used to buy some other thing that we didn't need.  I'm not even sure what it was for, something he'd wanted that is obviously meaningless if I can't remember it.  He didn't quite understand how I could hand $100 to a total stranger.

He didn't grow up hungry.  His parents weren't wealthy.  They were lower middle class, but still much better off than my family was.  They owned their own home.  His dad had full-time work with medical benefits his whole life.  Even now, his dad does well as the assistant chief of a fire department.  His mom was a stay-at-home-mom until she passed away when he was in his 20s.  They never got divorced, they were always there for him and his brother.

He didn't know what it was like to wonder when your next meal would come.  To be so grateful that you got to go to school, because at least you'd eat once that day.  To dread summer vacation, because you never knew when you were going to eat those months.  To have ketchup soup, because the bottle of ketchup was the only food left in the house.  To know what the strange cans of food that came from the federal surplus for the poor tasted like, and that yes, when you're that hungry, you would eat them no matter how bad they smelled.

Government cheese was a joke to him and those he grew up with.  It was a luxury for me and those I grew up with.  Food stamps were a handout, dirty, something to be avoided to him.  Food stamps were, and are, a blessing to me, ensuring that food will be in the cupboard.  He didn't have teeth that were cracking not from lack of hygiene, but from malnutrition throughout childhood.  He assumed that poor people who were fat were that way because they ate too much.  He didn't realize that it was often because they were so starved that their bodies went into storage mode as soon as they got food, storing every spare calorie possible.

I understood all of that.  All of that and more.  So I couldn't watch a family starve when I had extra money that I could give them.  I still can't, and I never have extra money now that I'm single, divorced, struggling to make it on my own.

But I still give what I can, when I can.  Extra canned goods I send to the food bank every week.  I get the surplus commodities, and there are things that I can't use.  Those get donated, passed along to someone who can.  I bake, giving the neighbors who run out of food the last week of the month, before the next month's food stamps come in, bread and bagels and sausage rolls, because while I don't have a lot, I've learned how to make sure I have enough even with the little that I have.