Mabel’s Beans

Mabel's Beans

A resident at a United Church Homes affordable housing community was out one day, visiting her friends and neighbors at the community. This resident, “Sam,” was active in many community initiatives, most designed to make life better, richer and more robust for others. “Sam” was not her real name, but everyone agreed it fit her. Sam was short for Good Samaritan.

On this beautiful Saturday morning, Sam spoke with Mabel.

Mabel was a quiet person, prone to say little (if anything) to her neighbors. She was friendly, always ready with a warm smile of acknowledgment. But a difficult life had left emotional and psychological bruises. Mabel responded by mostly keeping to herself. She preferred it that way.

As Sam and Mabel spoke that day, something unexpected happened. Sam learned that Mabel’s finances were more pressing than usual. A series of unexpected expenses had cropped up, leaving Mabel with literally nothing in her bank account, and little in her pantry.

In fact, Mabel’s provisions were down to her last can of beans. Mabel shared with Sam she was trying to figure out how to make 16 ounces of beans last for eight days, until her next Social Security check arrived. Sam was incredulous.

Surely Mabel was exaggerating! Sam soon discovered the truth. She opened Mabel’s pantry—nothing. She opened her cupboards—nothing. She opened her refrigerator—there were Mabel’s beans, an open can, half-eaten. Mabel was hungry, and scared, and unsure where she could turn for help.

Sam sprang into action, quickly contacting the manager and service coordinator at her housing community. The local food pantry was contacted and an emergency food basket was delivered to Mabel.

“Many residents of our housing communities have faced similar situations,” said Cheryl Wickersham, vice president of housing services for United Church Homes. “They have found themselves needing to choose between buying food or medication. Our housing managers and service coordinators do a wonderful job of helping residents find the assistance they need.”

Sam’s conversation with Mabel revealed a universal truth—there but for the grace of God goes any one of us. Today a can of beans sits in a high-profile, prominent place at the United Church Homes central office. Most can wrappers say “Del Monte” or “Van De Kamp” or some similar brand. This can bears the title: Mabel’s Beans. It’s a reminder of who we are, what we do, and why our mission is so important.