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April Jeppson: You don’t know what others go through

Every Little Thing, By April Jeppson

My fingertips were starting to hurt. I pulled them into my mittens so that I could make fists to hopefully warm them up. It helped. Although I was wearing my thickest socks and sturdy shoes, my toes were also starting to feel the effects of the cold. It was 9:30 a.m.,  and we’d been outside in the 20-degree cold for an hour. I was stationed on the northwest side of the fairgrounds where the wind had full access to us.

April Jeppson

The pop-up pantry was supposed to go from 9 to 11 a.m., however the semi-truck with all the food was running behind and we weren’t able to start loading up cars until almost 10 a.m. Some of the people had been in their cars waiting since 7 a.m. for their commodity box. It was cold. My glasses were continually fogged over from my mask, and my toes were starting to go numb.

I was offered toe warmers when I first arrived, however I declined them. Standing near the barn while going over the game plan for the morning, I wasn’t fully aware of how cold it really was. I was regretting my decision. It was around that moment when I was reoffered those little magical sticky heat pads again. This time I gladly accepted.

I was stationed with the coolest older gentleman. He talked about helping out at the homeless shelter. He teased me the way my grandpa used to. He mentioned how his sweet wife passed away a year ago. She had a beautiful soprano voice and Christmas time is hard for him. It was our job to bring the cars in and guide them to the other volunteers who were helping them park in rows. I’ve done this station before, but it was summer and my biggest concern then was getting too warm — oh, how I miss the warmth.

It’s always curious to me to see the cars that people drive in. You really can’t judge a book by its cover. You had cars covered in rust and cars that looked brand new. I saw a Lexus, BMW and a few vehicles with the Denali package. I also saw cars I wasn’t sure how much longer they had left. My mind wandered to all the different scenarios these people were in. A young man who inherited his grandfather’s vehicle, a lady who’d lost her job, a gentleman who hadn’t had a job in years, people on assistance, someone who just needs a little extra help during the holidays and even those who were picking up food for others who aren’t able to leave their homes.

The field was filled with cars. Almost 300 of them. The level of poverty that resides in our county is astounding, and I don’t think most people realize that. We are in such a weird time right now. It’s winter in Minnesota. It’s almost Christmas. We’ve spent the better part of the year trying to navigate a pandemic. Business owners don’t know if they’ll be able to keep their doors open six months from now. People are trying to buy presents and pay for their electric bill on an income that is much less than what they are used to. Everyone is affected in one way or another.

Please Albert Lea, be kind. You really don’t know what the person next to you is going through. You may think you get it because of the clothes they wear or what they posted on Facebook, but you don’t know. Most people keep their fears and concerns hidden from even those closest to them. There are a lot of people with a lot of uncertainty in their lives. Fortunately, there is hope.

“A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn” — “O Holy Night”

Albert Lean April Jeppson is a wife, mom, coach and encourager of dreams. Her column appears every Saturday.