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Monday, August 10, 2015

Hungry


"When did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?"

I like to feed people.  I'm not 100% sure what it is, but there is something about feeding people that just makes me happy.  Really happy.  So, this particular direction toward the least of these is no hardship for me.  Admittedly, some are more difficult than others...

So, how about a few stories...  I would love to hear yours...

***

One of my favorite "feeding hungry people" journeys happened at a Women of Faith Conference.  I'm not really awesome in retreat situations that include other people, unless I'm speaking.  Then I hope I'm awesome.  But, of course, I'm not so awesome as to be asked to speak at such a huge conference, so on this particular weekend I was an overwhelmed spectator - overwhelmed by the sheer volume of ladies... and their perfume... and the fact that Sandi Patti was the featured artist, which just made this all the more painful for me.  The local church I attended at the time paid my way.  I went.  I think I may have digressed...

After the evening session, as I was walking back to the bus that brought me to this place, I noticed that many of the women were carrying their boxed lunches, or more accurately the garbage that was left in their boxed lunches, the food they didn't want to eat, condiments, used napkins, empty water bottles, etc.  Just before they passed under a bridge where a significant number of homeless people resided, they would add their garbage box to a growing pile on the sidewalk.  I'm sure they thought they were providing some sort of service to these people who had no food.  I'm sure their intent was good.  But it just left me speechless.  Here I was, standing in the midst of this large, overpriced gathering, watching women who just spent hours in worship, nervously sidestepping the least of these, not making eye contact, certainly not touching them, and feeling just a little bit smug, because, hey...  WE JUST FED THEM OUR GARBAGE!

It was a game changer for me.  I remember feeling really embarrassed to be a part of such a group, and I was also determined that these people were not going to eat garbage for breakfast.

Now, it is no easy task to slip the group at an event like this, but in the morning my roommates and I managed to overshoot the convention center for a chance to wait in line at Dunkin' Donuts, where we purchased a variety of bagels.  We went back to the bridge, passed the food out to each person, and took just a moment to greet them, bless them, be blessed by them.  Undoubtedly, it was the most rewarding part of the weekend.  I honestly can't remember a single thing any of the retreat speakers said, but I can still see the tears in the eyes of some of those people under the bridge. 

My only regret is that I haven't had this kind of opportunity in a long time...

***

There was that summer when I fed [redacted], a skinny little "street kid" whose family often didn't know where their next meal was coming from.  That's hard enough during the school year when kids in this situation are likely getting hot lunch, and often some sort of breakfast, during the school day, and there are a lot of communities who have stepped up in recent days to provide the same services during the summer, but that's not always the way it goes, and as the mother of a teenage boy, I know that two meals isn't really enough, anyway.

I had to get a little bit creative on this one.  As it turned out, our youth group was having a pizza kit fundraiser, and I had heard multiple people talking about how they would like to help the youth group, but they just didn't like pizza.  Well, it sounded to me like an excellent way to solve two problems at once.  I encouraged all of those non-pizza eaters to purchase pizza kits and then I would distribute them to families who needed meals.  Other than the fact that I sold so many pizzas no one could use the church freezers all summer long, this was an excellent plan to help people help others in multiple ways.

We fed a lot of people that summer, no questions asked.  It made my heart happy every time a family stopped by for a pizza kit and left knowing that their kids would go to sleep with full bellies.  But no one ate as many pizzas as [redacted].  And, yes, I took some heat from people who thought there was probably a healthier way to accomplish this, but let's face it.  Teenage boys like pizza...

***

It's not too hard to find hungry people.  They are all around us.  Social networking is a pretty good place to look.  If you make enough connections and scroll your newsfeed for any period of time, chances are you will, at least occasionally, come across someone who has run out of food and has no way to purchase any more for days... maybe even weeks...  I am so sick to death of hearing people complain that these foodless people ought to plan better, budget better, eat less, eat cheaper food, work harder, whatever.  By the time you get to the point where there is no food in the house, it's far too late for any of that.  If you have the means, for crying out loud, feed them!

With a family of seven, we often shop in bulk or when things are on sale.  When one of my kids laments, "We have no food in the house," what that really means is that we have just run out of Eggos and they will have to eat something different for breakfast... like yogurt... or an apple... or cereal... or toast...  Once someone even gave us a quarter of a cow!  Do you have any idea how long it takes to eat that much beef?  Even for a family this size?  My point is, we always have food... even food to spare.

One afternoon, one of those status updates about lack of food happened to catch my eye.  It was posted by someone who lived in my town, whom I had met once.  It took me about three seconds to realize that I could pack enough food from my own cupboards and freezer to get their family of four through the days without food, without even feeling the loss.    Sometimes it's as simple as letting someone do a little bit of grocery shopping in your kitchen.

***

A friend of mine recently asked some important questions not only about whether we are feeding the hungry but about how we are feeding them.  Sometimes I think we just need to start by doing the best we can with the resources we have.  It is, indeed, better than nothing.  But she mentioned something that is very close to my own heart, as well.  Perhaps the very best thing we can do is to invite people to eat with us.  Our family has done a lot of that in past, and I am just going to insist that relationships take root and grow strong at the table.

L.

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