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"Bootstrapping through the pandemic," is the latest installment of Inara Verzemnieks' CNN series, "The Reckoning"

Oct 23, 2020

It’s been exactly four years since Shannon Benjamin planted a filing cabinet on the curb outside her house in Bay City, Michigan, and filled it with food, hoping that people passing by and in need would feel free to help themselves.

Then, as now, the country was on the precipice of a divisive presidential election, but politics didn’t play a part. Rather, she did it with her grandmother in mind, a lifelong resident of Bay City who raised her and who Benjamin had always thought of as “the perfect cross between Fred Rogers and Bea Arthur,” her home a refuge to outcasts and strays, her kitchen always open to anyone who was hungry. Her message to those she nurtured: be a helper.

When she went to check on the cabinet the following day, Benjamin found all the food she’d left was gone, but even more surprisingly, that someone — a stranger — had restocked it. “Today feels like the first day of an amazing new life,” Benjamin wrote in her journal. The next day her grandmother was admitted to the hospital; she died a week later.