Let them eat cake


During the bread famine in 18th-century France when scores of peasants were starving, Marie Antoinette was reported to have said, “Let them eat cake!” She followed it up with the statement, “It is quite certain that in seeing the people who treat us so well despite their own misfortune, we are more obliged than ever to work hard for their happiness.”

This sentiment about treating the “misfortunate” with kindness is well spread. Misfortunate is a good term to explain those with low incomes. Most often, through no fault of their own, these individuals find them in situations where their earning capacity is limited. Possibly they have children and try as they might, the parents are unable to obtain a job that pays well enough to pay their household expenses. Even if they are earning $15 an hour, that only amounts to $500 a week after taxes. With the average rent in Warwick reported to be $1,200 a month and utilities to average $200 a month, that leaves less than $600 for food and car expenses, not even enough to cover cable TV and a cell phone. These hard working families seem to tread water to stay afloat, and many people find that they cannot keep up.

Our church, as do many churches, hosts “adopt a family” for Christmas whereby 30 families, sponsored by 30 parishioners, are provided with Christmas gifts. It is with humility that I read the children’s Christmas wish list to Santa. They ask for socks, underwear, hair bows, and some crayons and coloring books. It tears at my heart that they ask for such simple things … things their family cannot afford. Of course, all of the parishioners provide an over-abundance of gifts for such humble requests, often providing items such as tablets, winter coats, bedding sets and expensive games. Our good fortune shines on them, and both the givers and the receivers benefit from the transaction.

My daughter, Marie and I do the bread runs for the Providence Rescue Mission. This involves driving around to the Stop and Shops and Cumberland Farms to get food for this organization that provides a meal for 140 people a day and food to 400 neighborhood families, all low income. Yesterday, one of the stores donated a scrumptious looking cheesecake with a layer of delicious looking fruit on top. Marie wanted to take it home to her family. Despite my disapproval, she held it in her lap the whole time, refusing to give it up. When we arrived at the building, she took one, long look at the homeless gathered haphazardly around the premises. Some were shoeless. Some were toothless. All looked destitute, but greeted us with a smile and a wave. They smiled and chatted amongst themselves, and one person who used crutches was helping to push a gentleman in a wheelchair. How could we selfishly keep that yummy, fruity cheesecake to ourselves? Yes, we would enjoy it, but we get to enjoy a lot of things. Marie handed the cheesecake to a supremely happy woman with matted hair and a toothy smile. Were it not for the COVID-19 guidelines, I am sure she would have given Marie a hug.

Today, an even greater thing happened. As I went to pick up some food at the food pantry, I was surprised with eight large grocery bags of freshly made donuts, each bag holding three to four dozen of all kinds. Stealing one for the drive up to Providence, my mouth exploded with happiness as I took a bite of one of them, (later determined to be a brown butter pecan glazed.) It was SOOOOOOOO good! These treats were donated by a new gourmet donut shop (or should I say “shoppe” which sounds more elegant?) Knead Donuts has opened a new store in East Greenwich offering such epicurean delights as blueberry lemon basil, passion fruit, and raspberry fritters. New to the neighborhood, they decided to share their wares with the less fortunate.Marie Antoinette’s quote rattled in my head. Yes, let the less fortunate eat cake! They deserve it as much, if not more, than anyone else. Each donut would guarantee to put a smile on their faces, and, heaven knows, they need as many smiles as they can get!


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