"It is easy to love the people far away. It is not always easy to love those close to us. It is easier to give a cup of rice to relieve hunger than to relieve the lonliness and pain of someone unloved in your own home. Bring love into your home, for this is where our love for each other must start." (Blessed Mother Teresa)
Today, Faith and I went with her little Daughters of St. Anne group up to Asheville to work for a brief time at the Manna Food Bank. Daughters of St. Anne is a group of homeschooled girls, a sub-group of CAFE: Catholic Area Family Educators. This year they are studying the Corportal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. This month it was "Feed the Hungry".
I’m not sure how much these sweet little girls actually got out of the experience, but I have had to really stop and think. Here are some facts about Western North Carolina:
Out of total clients in households served by MANNA FoodBank and documented by Hunger in America 2001:
- 25% include children under the age of 18
- 31% have one employed adult in the home
- 47.5% chose between paying for food and paying for utilities or heating fuel
- 31.2% chose between paying for food and paying their rent or mortgage bill
- 29.8% chose between paying for food and paying for medicine or medical care
- 33.8% have one household member in poor health
- 26.2% receive Food Stamp Program benefits, but it’s likely that many more are eligible.
- Many of the western counties poverty rate exceeds the state average of 12.6%, with Swain at 20.9% and Graham at 18.3%
This agency is not serving JUST the homeless, they are serving families who work, and have to make the decision of whether they want to feed their children, or pay rent, or buy medicine. This is in the United States of America!! There is something so, so, so wrong with this picture.
Western North Carolina is home to some of the wealthiest retirees in our nation, not to mention the opulent Biltmore Estate. Now, I don’t fault the wealthy for being wealthy. But I think it’s just really difficult for a lot of us, myself included, to understand that wealth just isn’t an option for an awful lot of people. I mean, here I sit at my computer, with my headphones on, listening to music and drinking my filtered water, with my $300 cell phone sitting beside me! Never mind all the other amazing things God has blessed our family with.
No, we don’t have the money to go to the beach every summer or visit Europe or even go to Carowinds just over in Charlotte. But we NEVER go hungry. In fact, I spend most of my time and energy trying to lose weight.
I was raised to believe that anyone and everyone who wants to make money, can. All they need to do is work hard, and they will have all they want or need. Anyone who doesn’t "make it" has only his/herself to blame. In theory, I think that may be true. But I’m not so sure anymore. The older I get, the more I question things, and come up empty.
I know that taking care of the poor was a really big deal to Jesus. He never mentioned anything about them being lazy or unmotivated. He didn’t judge them at all for being poor. In fact, seemed to love them even more because of it. I know that my own personal heroine, Blessed Mother Teresa, thought there was no higher calling or blessing than to serve the poor. How can you question a woman like that?
So, tonight I am looking at my life and my world through some very grateful eyes! I have so many things I could complain about. Everybody does. But there are so many more things to praise God for, and at least for tonight, I’m gonna have to go with that. I know that before I know it I will find some reason to feel sorry for myself (the Israelites didn’t remember that whole Red Sea incident for very long before they started complaining again!). But I hope that I will remember quickly how very blessed I am. How amazingly blessed my family is.
I am ever so grateful that there are agencies out there like the Manna Food Bank. So few people have done so much. Imagine if all of us pitched in? We really would cure world hunger. But right now, I think we really just need to start in our own backyards.
WORKS OF MERCY
The Corporal Works of Mercy are:
- To feed the hungry
- To give drink to the thirsty
- To clothe the naked
- To shelter the homeless
- To visit the sick
- To ransom the captive
- To bury the dead
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are:
- To instruct the ignorant
- To counsel the doubtful
- To admonish sinners
- To bear wrongs patiently
- To forgive offenses willingly
- To comfort the afflicted
- To pray for the living and the dead