Sunday, March 18, 2012

Desperate Mother Shoplifts a Jar of Yeast

Denis Hamill had a wonderful column in today's New York Daily News about Margaret Deming, a mother of six arrested for shoplifting three pounds of cold cuts and a jar of yeast so she could bake bread to feed her hungry children.

That the desperate mother stole yeast, and not a loaf of bread, made the story more powerful to me (and to newspaper editors, too, judging by how they featured this fact so prominently).  It's like she took the tool (or, in this case, the ingredient) she needed to survive. A loaf of bread would have been devoured in a day, but the yeast could be used to make many loaves. A twist on the saying: "Give a man a fish, you'll feed him for a day; teach a man to fish you'll feed him for a lifetime."  In this case, Deming knew how to fish, she just didn't have any bait.

The heartbreaking story has a happy ending: After Hamill wrote about her plight in February, a noted criminal defense attorney took her case pro bono and Daily News readers donated food and money.  In the end, her punishment was one day of community service.  More importantly, she was connected to the social services she needs to get back on her feet.  (Deming, like many poor New Yorkers, was living on the edge.  When both she and her husband lost their jobs and their apartment, she had few options and, not having a permanent address, was unable to get food stamps.)

Sometimes, it's the level of detail that makes the bread rise, and a story jump off the page.

7 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. I think it provides a very real sense of perspective.

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  2. Thanks, Susan, for sharing a great story. So simple- yeast and cold cuts. Denis Hamill is excellent for covering this story, too!

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  3. Thanks for writing, ladies. I know you'll both understand the agonizing hours those kids would have to wait for the bread to rise; it's so long under normal circumstances. It seems that getting caught was the best thing that could have happened to this mother, and ironically, provided the break she needed.

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  4. Thanks Susan for such a thoughtful column. I thought about that family all day and wondered if/where folks are in need in my town. Blessings. Clare

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    1. Thanks for writing Nana Clare. And sadly, I'm sure there are folks in need in your town (as there are everywhere).

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  5. She is a known scammer and not to mention... daughter of serial killer Arthur Shawcross.

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    1. Amazing. Can't believe she fooled the lawyer and Dennis Hamill. Thanks for letting me know; I'll post an update.

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