“The Cupboard that Shares Happiness”

I was horrified by this incident. “No one cares for me,” shouted a 59-year-old woman in front of the Finance Ministry on April 27. In protest, she swallowed a handful of pink pellets from a rodenticide bait pack, collapsed before rushed to a hospital. She was clearly distressed after failing to get a monthly stipend of 5,000 baht or around US$ 161, the Thai government's cash aid given for three months to informal workers hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. To curb the pandemic, the government locked down cities, shut down businesses, and imposed curfew and travel restrictions. Consequently, many, left unemployed, are struggling to put food on the table, with the poor and needy feeling frustration, despair and anger. Then people's little hope was reignited by the “Pantry of Sharing,” installed by “Little Brick,” a group of volunteers. The group first posted a video clip, asking what Thai people thought if the country could have pantries stocked with food for anyone. Many expressed their opinions. “Everything would be gone, the cupboard included.” “All food items would be taken home in a sack!” “The cupboard would be left empty.” “The answer is ‘impossible.' People are selfish with no conscience.” “Try the idea to find out.” “I wish we could have the pantry. I'm a rural man. We share what we have.” “Don't despair if you have no food. Every time you come across this pantry; you know you can take something home for your children. That'll bring happiness.” “We could help our fellow beings. Sharing with others brings you peace of mind.” “Donors are willing to give and recipients can fill their stomach with something from the pantry. So, both will be happy.” The first five Pantries of Sharing were set up by the group to alleviate the plight of those suffering hardship caused by government measures. This humanitarian act was inspired by the Little Free Pantry, started in the United States. The Pantry of Sharing is a beautiful initiative. Those who can afford to give, fill the pantry with nonperishable foods while people facing penury can come by and take everything they need to get through each day of poverty. Some even include notepads for people to write words of appreciation and encouragement to each other. Anyone can set up the Pantry of Sharing in their community. The idea has caught on rapidly. For Thais, sharing with those suffering is a way of making merit. Now there are community pantries in all 77 provinces. Local newspapers reported several stories of less fortunate people benefiting from these community pantries. A middle-aged mother and her 11-year-old son with special needs went several times a day to the Pantry of Sharing in the northern province of Phayao to find food. The mother could not work well because she was beset with diseases. They hardly had enough money to get by and sometimes had to go without food. These pantries are great. Old people, scavengers and the poor can come and get things here without queuing up in long lines to get free food offered by charitable organizations and individuals. One old uncle was widely admired by many social media users. He came to open the cupboard in front of Thonburi-Uthong Hospital and picked up only one carton of milk. He said only one carton of milk made him full and took nothing else to leave and share the rest for others to partake of. He was praised for being considerate and not opportunistic. Poor as he was, he was generous. Uncle Oud was from Ayutthaya Province. Homeless and without relatives, he wandered around in U Thong district, Suphan Buri province, to scavenge discarded materials for a living. Sadly, on May 18, Uncle Oud died peacefully from tuberculosis. In these challenging times, it is necessary for people to show their kindness and sympathy. That is why the pantries, known in Thai as “the cupboard that shares happiness,” are always replenished. However, this unattended food sharing scheme is still very new here. In reality, some selfish people abused the public's goodwill, raided pantries, took away all the items, hoarded the food, and worst, resold the stolen donations. Although people emptying a cupboard should be disapproved of, we may not really know what these people have gone through during lockdown. The motives of many cases are linked to rising poverty and food shortages. The reckless and selfish behavior may show just how the coronavirus pandemic and poor state support have made some people so desperate and insecure. In spite of the abuses being committed by some people, we should not lose hope in this food bank idea. A sense of giving should not be diminished just because our world also has inconsiderate people. Let us overlook those who are greedy. Our noble goal is to prevent destitute people from going hungry! During times of sickness and anxiety like these, it touches my heart and lifts my spirits when people help each other out. COVID-19: We will get through this TOGETHER.


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