My uncle Max always used to say that in life, even in your most broke of times, you should never be stingy and you should always share whatever you have. And he definitely practiced what he preached. There were a few times in life when he struggled financially, but he’d still give to charity, or stiff himself a few groceries in order to afford to buy cat food for the 13 stray cats he’d feed every night. And even though this November it’ll have been 19 years since his passing, his teachings and sayings still resonate with me to this day. He practiced a selfless kindness – the type of which this world needs more. That’s probably why I know he’d have loved this story.
Roman Espinoza lives in Watertown, New York. While his home is not strikingly different from those of his neighbors, there is one thing that stands out on his lawn: a “Blessing Box.”
The concept is quite simple, it’s a miniature food pantry that is filled with food available to anyone who needs it. It’s open to the public and people can even come and donate items if they wish.
“Whether you’re taking or giving, you can just go to the blessing box. There’s not a lock on it — it’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Espinoza explained to CNN.
The 46-year-old Army veteran got the idea for his front yard food pantry while attending classes on human services at his local community college. Espinoza was surprised to learn that there was a food pantry in the school specifically for needy students.
“I thought, ‘Man, these adults that are spending time taking classes can’t eat every day.’”
It didn’t take him long after that to make the decision to start his “Blessing Box.” He invested in all the food himself, but since starting it, the community has rallied around his idea and he hasn’t had to refill it much himself.
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“The box itself is for the community and it’s sustained by the community,” he remarked. “The community, the neighborhood and my block have been really supportive.”
The community’s support is also extending beyond just food items.
“We try and put stuff in there that makes sense — toothpaste, toothbrushes, band-aids….some soap and shampoo,” Espinoza explained.
And who gets to avail of this communal generosity?
“We don’t know who uses it — sometimes people feel like they are embarrassed to use the box in the middle of the day,” Espinoza said.
Still, there is no doubt that the box is indeed being used and often needs filling.
“I woke up recently and I had to put food in [the box] because someone came by and needed food,” Espinoza said.
The success of the “Blessing Box” has been an inspiration around the community as well.
Espinoza has said, “I’ve gotten a couple of requests from people around town for boxes for their property. With any luck, we’ll have a few around town where people can be made aware of them and make use of them.”
As a result, Espinoza is hopeful that the box idea will inspire others around town to create a supportive atmosphere of generosity for those in need.
He stated, “Watertown, New York, in the next five years, could be known as the city of blessing boxes.”
What a very lovely gesture. Hopefully, more people will join in on the kindness and continue to help support those who need it. I think we can all take a lesson from Espinoza and his generosity.
Anastasia is an American writer and journalist living in Dublin, Ireland. Her Twitter is @AnastasiaArell5.