I sit at my table profoundly humbled and heartbroken. We tell ourselves that we aren’t rich, but that’s a lie. It’s a first world problem to always be told by the media that we aren’t rich because we are bombarded with images of the super rich. Yet, in a global context, most Americans are rich, even if we don’t see it that way. I won’t lie, this week every month money gets super tight and we have to watch EVERY penny. I count how many meats I have in the freezer to make it till pay day, but the truth is I have NEVER wondered where my next meal was coming from. The epidemic of hunger is closer than you think. In fact, it’s knocking on your door asking if your daughter can come out to play.
You know that there are people who struggle with hunger, but you don’t expect it to be the girl at your front door, asking your daughter to play.
When Finding Friends Is A Matter of Survival
I’m blessed to live in a neighborhood full of kids in school with my own, but I didn’t feel blessed when one particular girl started coming around SO often that I had to send her away during home work time or meal times. I tried to set boundaries, but she kept coming back and now that I know why it makes me sick to my stomach. Last night, she came over very close to dinner time and when I asked her if she had to get home to have dinner with her family she confessed that she doesn’t have dinner at home most nights. Her mother tells her to find a family to invite her to dinner. I can’t EVEN fathom being a ten-year-old girl forced to figure out how she would eat dinner EVERY single day.
Desperation For Dinner
After having a conversation with another family in the neighborhood, my husband and I found out that this is a known problem and other families pitch in to feed this child. At dinner last night, my husband and I both wanted another helping of chicken, but when I asked her what her mom and dad would eat tonight and she said, “probably nothing” my husband and I decided to wrap up our leftovers and take them over. Her mom was thankful and I’m glad, but I also wanted to shake this woman and scream at her. I want to know WHY she would let it get to this point. My motherly instincts CAN’T reconcile waiting till there is literally NOTHING in the house to feed your child. I CAN’T understand how you aren’t on the phone with food banks before the cupboard and fridge are ENTIRELY empty. I CAN’T understand how you send a child alone at night to figure out how to get their own dinner. I’m APPALLED and SICKENED, but I TRY TO REMEMBER that I HAVE NEVER felt that kind of desperation.
Hunger Is NOT A Concept; It’s A Person
When my kids tell me they’re hungry, I get frustrated because I know they just had a snack 15 minutes ago. When they throw out half eaten apples I tell them there are kids in the world who are REALLY hungry who would NOT be wasting their food. I know they don’t really get it. I silently tell myself when they are old enough I’ll take them to a food pantry or soup kitchen to show them. But instead, hunger came to my door. This little girl lit up, “REALLY?” she smiled when we asked her if she wanted to stay for dinner. I have no reference for hunger except the small pangs that come between meals. I don’t feel that desperation gnawing at my insides, scratching at my belly, clouding my thoughts and crowding out any sounds outside that growl. It’s NOT enough to be saddened by a sad story.
Rich People Problems
My husband and I are Christians and we are called to be God’s hands and feet. We are called to be the hope and blessing for others. I realize that I often say I am blessed, but inside I feel sorrow during our meager times of the month. I feel desperate and selfish because I CHOSE to give up an income so I could stay home with our kids, effectively putting all the financial burden on my husband’s shoulders. We do without new clothes from the mall in favor of consignment shops. We shop at Aldi, or with coupons to keep our grocery budget down. We pray fervently that our used cars will pass inspection and give us at least one more year before we need to buy new used ones. I realize NOW, these are ACTUALLY rich people problems.
We have not one, but two cars. We have clothes, food and a roof over our heads. We also NEVER wonder when the next paycheck is coming in so that we might afford food for our kids. I’m BLESSED enough to have been ENTIRELY sheltered from the epidemic of hunger. It’s not something you think about just at Thanksgiving, right before you dive into a table laden with goodies. It’s the every day struggle for some families and they aren’t just in some third world country; it’s around the corner in YOUR neighborhood.
Be The Blessing
Last night, I thought we were struggling because there was only a hundred dollars in our bank account till Friday. Some months it’s a lot less than that we squeak by on. BUT by broke I mean I have to borrow from our savings or in ABSOLUTE emergencies use a credit card to bridge the gap. BUT then I REALIZED that there are those who LIVE in that GAP. I REALIZED just what it means to be BLESSED; it means having ENOUGH to be focused only on ourselves. So I packed a few things from our poorly stocked cabinets and my husband drove to Wal-Mart to buy groceries for this girl’s family. He dropped them off with her grateful mother this morning. It’s NOT ENOUGH to simply say or know you are BLESSED, you NEED to prove that you know it by being the blessing for someone else.
Some people have advised us to look away. Some have warned us that we will be taken advantage of. BUT here’s what I know – we SHOULD LOVE a child enough to want to help her, MORE than we want to PUNISH parents that maybe aren’t being responsible. I should mention here that we have heard rumors of drug abuse in the home as well. We AREN’T SAINTS for feeding a child one meal, or delivering a meal or groceries to her family. I don’t think we DESERVE praise or recognition simply for doing what’s RIGHT. They are RIGHT; it’s NOT my PROBLEM to solve, but I’ll be DAMNED if I don’t see it as my profound PRIVILEGE to help.
You can help people struggling with hunger too. Find out how your workplace, neighborhood, church or service organization can host a food drive for the Food Bank of The Hudson Valley. If you know a church or nonprofit organization that feeds the hungry, I encourage you to support them as well.