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Snippet from the Street:
Food Pantry Philosophy

March 18, 2013  |  By Cathy Finn

I was standing in a bedraggled little line, the line at the St Vincent DePaul food pantry in Hyannis. Due to space constraints, 8 or so of us had to stand out in the elements while we waited our turns to get into the warmth and walk away with a couple of bags of much needed groceries. Part of my case manager duties at Duffy is to continue on with contact and assistance after we have helped our clients find housing, including making sure they have enough food.

The gentleman I was with was clearly the local man-about-town. All the ladies in line made it a point to greet him by name and have a little chat with him.

"I have no idea who these ladies are," he quietly confided to me, "But they all know my name."

We had a good deal of time to stand in line and wait for our turn, and our conversation turned to how his life was going.

"You have a pretty good attitude," I told him. He had clearly had a tough life. He had lived many years on the street, battled his demons, and would freely admit he hadn't yet beaten all of them. Day to day life was a physical strain on his body as well, but he was happily chatting with his neighbors in line, and was concerned about me, that I might be cold or bored, and was worried that I was 'wasting' my time with him. I repeatedly told him I certainly was not.

"Well, you know what I think," he told me. "Yesterday is gone; I can't do anything about it. It's gone. I have today, that's all I have. Tomorrow hasn't come yet, so I won't worry about that."

There are great philosophers who sit in the marbled halls of Academe that do not have such a concise and accurate view of life. This man, who lives with the bare minimum of belongings and support, has pared life down to its bare bones, and has come up with a viewpoint of life that lets him take those many bad days and leave them behind him. To someone outside looking in, he could have a lot to fear in the future and a lot to regret in the past, but his philosophy lets him let a little bit of the angst slide. Not all, as you would find if you spoke to him, but at least enough to let him go on with day to day life.

I have some advice for you. Put aside your self help books and go out into the world and talk to some folks who have been up to their elbows in life. That's where the true wisdom comes from.


Cathy FinnCathy Finn
Case Manager
Duffy Health Center

Cathy Finn has worked on Cape Cod in the field of homelessness for the last 25 years, gaining experience with adults and children. She has been working full time as a case manager at the Duffy Health Center since September of 2012 working with chronically homeless single adults. Working with the homeless has always been a passion of hers and the compassionate view of the homeless advocated by Duffy Health Center and the affection for the clients she works with is central to her enjoyment of her job. She is the proud mother of two young adults, and also writes a monthly commentary on sports for the Barnstable Patriot.