This story is written in the first person by Hannah Tam a young Asian woman who attends Harvard Medical and delivered groceries on the Labor Day weekend.
We delivered the groceries this morning at 10am. What a wonderful way to start the day! After attending the 11am service and reflecting, I want to share with you our experience.
This is our second time delivering groceries through the Love thy Neighbor program. Since this was a big order, we planned the purchases carefully the day before on a spreadsheet to ensure that we are getting fourteen-days of groceries for seven people. We’re both students and don’t own cars, so we biked again this time to deliver the groceries. This time, the family’s location is 3.5 miles away and is in a neighborhood that we’ve never been to before. To get there, we biked through several neighborhoods, including the newly renamed Nubian square. It was my first-time biking through the new “Black Lives Matter” mural painted across Washington Street. It was an incredibly powerful message.
We got to the Stop and Shop that was about 2 blocks away from the family’s apartment at 8:30am. We then basically went through every aisle and put groceries and other necessities into our carts. Even though it was early, we encountered quite a few shoppers and employees. It became quickly evident that we were the only non-black people in the store. We got a few looks, especially when it really seemed like we were cleaning out the store with our overfilling carts. The cashier/clerk was very kind and was seemingly unfazed by the fact that two kids with bike helmets were buying all these groceries.
We got out of the store at around 9:30am. Since everything fit into two carts, we tried to walk the carts to the apartment. When we left the parking lot, the carts’ wheels locked and refused to unlock, so we were basically stuck with a ton of groceries. I was about to open my Uber app, but then a lady shouted “Taxi?” at us and already started helping us push our locked carts. I was extremely hesitant to accept her help because of the pandemic, plus she said that she noticed us on our bikes when we got to the store an hour ago. I didn’t even know that illegal taxis were a thing in Boston or the US. But Riley reminded me that we were supporting a local Black business, and we were stuck in the middle of the street. Even though it was only 2 blocks, I was praying hard. I think I was particularly more nervous than him because we couldn’t open the blacked-out windows of the van, and the lady wasn’t wearing her mask. The lady ended up being incredibly kind. She told us that she was from Haiti and introduced us to Haitian music.
We got to the apartment building and placed the grocery bags on the curb. What happened next was pretty confusing on our end and on the family’s end. When I called the number that was provided to me, it went straight to voicemail. When we rang the doorbell, no one answered. I think we stood there for maybe 5 minutes, basically not knowing what to do. And then we saw a head peering out of the window from the fifth floor. I told her that we were part of Park Street Church and we were here to deliver groceries to her family because we heard that they were quarantined. She sent her young son down to get the groceries. I helped him bring the groceries in the main apartment building door as Riley held the door. And then four kids from around the neighborhood came into the apartment building and just sat there, staring at us and the young son. I felt kind of bad for the son. He seemed a little embarrassed that he was receiving that much food from 2 strangers. We said goodbye to the son and the mother then headed back to our bikes at the Stop and Shop
Of the 5 years I’ve lived in Boston as a student at Northeastern and now at Harvard Medical, I have never been to a predominantly black neighborhood before, let alone interact with the residents. I realized that, while we live in a diverse city, we mostly interact with the people that are in the same socioeconomic status. That’s what we’re comfortable with. As a Christian, I realize that this is wrong. There’s a delicate balance between reaching out to those who are in need the most and coming into the neighborhood unannounced and imposing a “white savior complex”. I’m continuously praying for how we can help in a way that is in line with God’s intentions.
All in all, I think we both really enjoyed our experience. We would love to help out again! Because we’re both students, we would appreciate it if Park St can help us out with the expenses. We will also get a covid test through our school (I’m required to get tested twice a week as mandated by the school anyway). Thanks again for reaching out to us. Please don’t hesitate to email me again for another request. We would love to help out again.