Today I waited in line for a box of food with someone I know. She is on a fixed income and has a child, and the child’s family, living with them after losing their own home and job.
The local food bank was giving out a box containing five oranges, three onions, a bag of potatoes, a package of cheese slices, a gallon of milk, three small containers of yogurt, a tub of sour cream, and two bags of pre-cooked chicken patties. One can get a box of food for each member of the household, but it looked like four boxes was the max a family could receive.
When we finally reached the food boxes, she could have requested up to the four boxes since there are six of them living together. We had waited in the car line for over an hour. But, when we saw the long line of people still to come, and saw the number of boxes remaining, she could only bring herself to ask for one, knowing another family or two might then be able to get a box.
As we drove away, and saw the long line of people behind us, all those cars in the picture above, full of families in need, we both had tears in our eyes. Such a feeling of sadness overcame both of us, we just couldn’t help ourselves.
It is one thing to see the pictures on the TV tube. It is one thing to actually volunteer at a food bank to pass out the food. It is quite another to wait in a line stretching back onto city streets, wrapping completely around a fairgrounds, hoping someone will be polite and let you back into line when two lines merge back into one, with everyone worried there won’t be boxes left when they get to the front so they don’t want to let you in and you get the last box, feel a sense of relief there is at least one box left for you, then feel guilty for getting one of the last boxes when seeing all the cars still behind you, and knowing, feeling, they won’t all be able to get a box, and then worry about how those families will make it through.
For me, I also felt a sense of rage. Rage of living in the world’s richest country, where some people add almost a billion dollars to their wealth each and every day, and politicians take pictures of their steak to post on social media. All while we have lines of people across the country going hungry, or as the politically correct and academics call it, food scarcity. When we have stopped calling it what it is—hunger, starvation, neglect—it is sugar coated and people can then ignore it.
If our elected leaders would, for just a moment, ride through the line with one of their constituents, see and feel what is happening in the daily lives of human beings in our country (setting aside this has been happening around the world for years), and then see if they can still vote against increasing funds for the social safety net for things such as SNAP, unemployment, Social Security increases, and universal basic income. When they, and we in the middle class or higher economic status, set ourselves apart, I think we stop seeing the pain of our fellow man.
Before the holidays, I invited everyone to donate money to local food banks instead of buying expensive gifts for people. It is what we have begun doing. Every little bit helps.
I am going to go further with another two invitations. One, if feasible, find a family in need to “adopt.” Help the family with food, pay a bill or two, or cook them several large meals that might last a few days every couple of weeks. It is hard for people to ask for help as we are a proud people, but people will usually accept gifts, especially if it is a home cooked meal.
The additional invitation is to ask you to write to your elected officials, from local to federal, urging them to help people, and they can start helping by providing more funds directly to people, or to organizations that provide food to people, such as food banks and pantries. And to start demanding the top 1% begin to pay their fair share of personal taxes, and corporations begin to pay their fair share of corporate taxes. We need that extra income to help those less fortunate in our society.
No one should go to bed hungry in the richest nation in the world. Really, no one in the world should go hungry.
If we were a true Christian nation, following the teachings of Jesus, no one would.