It's Already Working

GoodRoots Northwest / May 3, 2022

A healthy helping hand....

Community, it's Stacey. 

I want to start off this email by telling you that I had a conversation with this customer prior to sending out her words on the internet. She looked me straight in the eyes and said "Stacey … I want you to tell my story. There are so many people in my shoes and they need to know they can get help at The Market."

I'm very careful with my customer's stories. They are theirs to tell. However, there have been times in this journey of creating The Market that I've heard a story so powerful, so beautiful, that I ask if I can share so that we can help others truly understand what's happening within these walls.

Almost daily I hear about how the experience at The Market has improved someone's life. We don't solicit things like this, as it's always been an important part of our culture to not require people to be thankful or feel like they owe us anything at all. Including their words. But yet anytime I walk through the space, I'm pulled aside by a shopper and told a story so powerful that it inhabits space in my mind forever. It's the reason we strive every day to do more. It's the reason for every decision I make as a leader.



Because solutions to food insecurity are great. But solutions to improve lives and outcomes is the actual goal. 

And so now, I want to share with you what I found in my inbox last week. I was sitting at an industry conference in the banquet hall listening to a keynote speaker. I checked my email out of habit and this letter was as the top. 

Her words. Her story.

"Being a recent type 2 diabetic I had to look at shopping a little differently for myself and my family which had given me a whole new anxiety level and mental stressor as a single mom of 2 I really didn't feel like I could handle while going to school full time. Upon arrival to The Market I had prepared myself with a list of foods to look for and feeling semi-prepared with anxiety high I parked and tried and figure things out with my 3 year old in tow. I was met in the parking lot with a huge smile and a welcome by Tiffany and I quietly told her that I was a little unsure about how to shop and how much I could get with my new diagnosis. Immediately she smiled and introduced me to Jen, your food steward. She shopped with me and my son around the entire market pointing me to the foods I could eat, offering guidance on recipes, how to prepare different foods for my picky eaters while still following diabetic guidelines and so many helpful tips to deal with it all. A trip I had been dreading for a week was turned into one of the most informative moments. The kindness of a team of complete strangers who genuinely cared about me and my health. It made me feel like I could take this new chapter in my life on and not worry about how it would impact my finances or my children's willingness to eat the foods I needed to be healthy and feel 100% again. I can't thank you enough.  Just a simple conversation gave me the confidence to make better informed choices for maintaining my health without having to sacrifice taste or financial hardship. To some people it's just a conversation about food but to me it was so much more than that. It was feeling heard and cared for when I care for everyone else. It was being told that I could do this and it wouldn't be so scary. It was freeing me from a mental breakdown of wondering how to do it all and make it all work. Grocery shopping trips I thought would need to be elaborate and expensive were made simple and affordable by a few tweaks and tricks that Jen told me in a 10 minute conversation. When I left I was excited to cook for the first time since my dr apt. Thank you for all the hours you put in. I'm just one of so many people who feel more human by the way you help our families. I'm so so grateful for the Market and can't wait to come back knowing I have people on my side to help me be the best I can for my family."

After finishing reading, I felt as if I went into a fog. The tables of people around me seemed to disappear and I was left with layers of humanity to process. She didn't need my empathy. She was revealing her raw humanness to me with the generosity of her own words, and her own experience. She only wanted me to see her and understand the significance of that moment to her.

My throat began to swell with every emotion a person can have, all at once. 

Grief for this young mother feeling alone in her journey.

Awe at the courage of her words.

Pride for my humble team and their generosity.

Joy that she felt the immediate impact of our support.

Anger that systems aren't better for people experiencing challenge.

Sadness at all the people that we haven't reached yet.

Humility that my voice has somehow become a conduit for sharing others voices.



And just like that, the fog broke. The speaker announced the engagement portion of her presentation and asked the audience about something that our nonprofits had done this past year that changed the way we looked at things. I raised my hand to speak. Through shaking hands that held my cell phone, I was my customer's voice for a moment to a room full of foodbank industry leaders. And the room fell silent.

After returning from the conference I was sitting in my office. Tiffany came in and said "Stacey, the customer that wrote that letter is here. I want you to meet her." I raced into The Market. We exchanged an embrace and some words that I'll keep close to my heart for now. Then she cleared her throat and said …

"I have some news to share with you. I went to my doctor yesterday...and my counts have improved. It's already working."