Several years ago, my friend Heather and I went to visit a local middle school principal to ask her what our church and other organizations we represented could do to help her school and students. We expected her to ask us to recruit mentors or help them start an after school program. But that's not what she asked for. With little thought and sadness in her voice, she asked for snacks.
I'm still ashamed that I had to ask her why on earth snacks. She explained snacks were the quickest path to making her most unmanageable students teachable. Many of them, she told us, came to school hungry, and learning was often the furthest thing from their minds. Her teachers knew this as well, and often took it upon themselves to purchase their kids' snacks with their own money.
That meeting reminded me how hard it is to even begin to understand the value of things we've never had to fear living without. I'd never much considered how essential having a chance to eat before I went to school each day was to me getting a high school diploma and eventually a college degree. The reality is, though, many young people in this world will never succeed in a classroom simply because they are hungry. An even harsher reality - for the same reason - many of them will die before adulthood. Extreme hunger is real in this world. By the time you take two minutes to read this blog post, 30 people will die of hunger (poverty.com). Many of them will be children.
A personal confession here. God constantly convicts me about this hunger issue. I, wearing all of my nobility, take a visit to a local school looking for an opportunity to mentor and God sees fit to remind me his children are starving to death. Talk about getting knocked off your high horse. Here's how God boils it down to for me - relentlessly - he makes sure I never forget that the food his children don't have is directly connected to all the excesses I do have.
No matter how I try to spin it - that connection NEVER. GOES. AWAY.
He reminds me that I live in a house much bigger than I need instead of a small apartment. I tell him I'm trying to provide a comfortable place for my family to live. He asks me how comfortable I think his children are who don't eat for days at a time.
He reminds me that I could be driving an older, less expensive vehicle than I do. I remind him I have to provide reliable transportation for my family. He wonders out loud, with a deeply questioning look in his eyes, about the children who can't rely on their next meal.
He reminds me of the vacations my family takes. I tell Him how much I value showing my kids the world. He tells me how much he values me teaching my kids to feed the poor.
You see. The connection NEVER. GOES. AWAY.
These are not conversations I have with God in the middle of a drunken stupor or in a middle of the night nightmare. I have them when my head is clear and my eyes are filled with light and pointed directly at his biblical word:
Earlier this year, I made the decision to quit eating meat. I did so for two reasons. One, I wanted to radically eliminate an area of excess in my life. When I considered how much money I spent on eating out, and how drastically that would be reduced without the lure of cheeseburgers and steaks and chicken and... you get the picture - the potential savings I could direct to the hungry was obvious. The second reason, I think I really wanted to rob myself of some of the joy of eating. When I stopped and thought about the tragedies people face because of a lack of food against the back drop of the joy I personally experience from eating, I realized food had become a sort of God in my life. I have a friend who used to jokingly tell me one big difference between him and his wife was she ate to live and he lived to eat. I'm afraid I live on his side of that equation.
I haven't touched meat since January 4. Trust me, without meat, far more meals have been about keeping hunger out of my life than experiencing the momentary and mouth-watering joy of a double cheeseburger or ribeye.
One of the big considerations that always comes up when trying to feed the poor is who do you trust to make the best use of your donations to do it. All I can say is if you have to do your homework. There are a lot of good organizations out there, and there are some who could be better stewards.
In April, our church - New Song UMC in Mechanicsville, VA - is going to partner with Stop Hunger Now to provide over 50,000 meals for the hungry. There are two things I love about this organization. One, for 29 cents you can provide a meal for someone who needs it. The second reason, you actually get to help put assemble and package up the meals. There's something fulfilling about paying for and putting your hands on the meals that will save lives.
I'd love for you to consider helping us out. There are two ways to do so.
My address is:
103 Steyland St.
Ashland, VA 23005
You can also use the website below to donate or to register to help out at the event:
New Song Church Stop Hunger Now meal packaging event.
You know, I used to watch commercials on TV sponsored by organizations soliciting money for the hungry. They'd use images of little children on the brink of death. They were poster children for malnutrition. I'd get indignant at these organizations for trying to put a guilt trip on me. As I've grown older and wiser, I've come to understand there are some guilt trips God wants me to take. Not so much to experience and live in the guilt, but to learn something from the trip.
What I have learned is this. To me there isn't much sadder than the reality that every 4 seconds someone dies because they don't have enough to eat. And no matter where I hide, I can't escape personal responsibility for that. I can't escape God's persistent call to do something about it.
Thank you in advance for considering my plea.