Hamper Shopping in Mexico
The first weekend that we here in Mexico, “hamper shopping” was introduced to my vocabulary. The Give Different Campaign over the winter holiday had raised enough money to give every family that had received a new house in 2012 an opportunity to receive a generous amount of groceries and other household supplies.
We picked the families up in our mini-bus and brought them to the local supermarkets. Our role as Academy students was to follow a family and help keep track of the amount that they were spending. Even though grocery shopping seemed like a very mundane task, I wanted to learn something from it. My passion in life has always been to connect with others through empathy (the ability to identify with another person’s situations or feelings), so I set a personal goal to be an interested observer of how a Mexican family’s shopping list might differ from my own. If nothing else, I would get to see what constitutes the ingredients for Mexican food!
Armed with a calculator in one hand and a shopping cart in another, I followed the families as we navigated the narrow aisles of the crowded store. Fifteen families later, there were some noticeable winners of the “most sought after items”. Flour was incredibly popular because tortillas are such an integral part of their daily meals. The majority of the houses were without electricity so few of the families bought meat and milk because there wasn’t anywhere to store them. I never stopped to think about the role that a fridge played in my life but it allows me to keep foods fresh, whereas that day, the shopping carts were being filled with mostly nonperishable items.
Other than the basic necessities of food, the families also got to buy things that might otherwise have been more luxury items. So many loaded up on cleaning supplies and I reveled in each item’s potential to add more comfort and health into their lives. I was told that the price of eggs had recently gone up thus making them less affordable. But, on the bumpy ride home, most families kept safe a tray of eggs in their laps.
At the end, we helped unload bags and bags of groceries into their kitchens and each family expressed the most sincere gratitude. I tried to imagine what must have been going through their minds as we shopped. How did they feel having more groceries than they could carry? Do they have more pressing things in life that they are now able to pay for like land payments and other bills? My mind worked frantically wanting to get to the bottom of exactly what an impact receiving a hamper made to these families.
In retrospect, I realized that the entire experience was made up of moments of shared gratitude. It was the perfect way to get right into the community. We got to visit the family’s houses and took in the additions that they had built to make them their own. We shook many, many hands, and played with the kids. Our newly learned Spanish phrases were put to the test. Finally, we smiled as the families told us how their lives have changed since living in their new homes.
Throughout it all, I could hardly wrap my head around how lucky I was to be a part of the shopping process. Food is such an essential part of a human being’s daily life. Thanks to the generous donors of the Give Different Campaign, we were able to be with the families as they picked out exactly what fulfilled their greatest needs and desires. I witnessed money, something that is so commonly associated with greed and consumerism in our society today, being put towards helping people who are now the first friends that we made in the community. I held on to their names and faces because even though I could not absorb quite what this gift means for the families, I felt joy knowing their stomachs will be more satisfied and that their houses will be cleaner. A week into Mexico, I already felt so at home because of the people that I have encountered. These are the people who made an ordinary, everyday process seem extraordinary.