Yesterday I attended a wonderful fundraiser for Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado. I call them the food bank to the food banks across much of our state.
In an exceptional move in 2012, Care and Share arranged direct distribution of food to families affected by the Waldo Canyon Fire. I was unemployed at the time and volunteered with them over several months following the fire to organize food distribution to hundreds of families and local food banks .
The heat was unprecedented that summer — nearly 2 weeks of 100+ temperatures strung together, punctuated only by the frighteningly persistent sound of fire trucks, up and down the Front Range.
Everything was brittle. Temperatures, foliage, patience, tempers. So many had lost so much.
It was during this season I gained a whole new respect for Care and Share’s work, their work ethic and their vision for tackling hunger in Colorado. This focused food distribution was one of the most compassionate things I’d seen done in a major, local crisis.
It’s not uncommon with major disasters like typhoons or earthquakes to gather goods of all kinds to distribute, but I’d never seen anything like this on a local level. What vision and leadership.
It truly gave affected families one less thing to worry about and one less encounter each week that would require them to explain “how they were doing” after they’d just lost everything.
At yesterday’s luncheon, we heard stories from individuals who’d benefited from Care and Share’s extensive services to food banks around our state:
- One young mom who’d quit her job to get a college education so she could make a better future for her family. In the process, she found herself and her family in need of basic food and nutrition;
- One poet who, though she didn’t “look the part” of the person suffering from hunger, she went through college married, with a family, and without food at least a couple of days a week; and
- A very successful, young businesswoman, who had grown up “off the grid” in Colorado and – very long story, short – ended up getting many meals from dumpsters.
While the last story was the most dramatic of the three, hearing all their accounts reminded me of one thing:
Hunger is hunger, wherever you are.
When you’re hungry, you can’t focus on the task at hand. If you’re in school, it’s hard to learn when your body is focused on its most basic needs – not to mention your brain doesn’t fire on all cylinders without the proper fuel.
If you’re trying to work a job but can’t make ends meet enough to put food on the table, chances are good you’re missing things at work and you aren’t able to perform at your best.
When you suffer from food insecurity, the odds are stacked wildly against you and your dreams.
Third-world vs. First-world hunger?
I’ve witnessed first-hand hunger in circumstances of extreme poverty, where people have next to nothing and food is yet another thing they lack, among other essentials like clean water or access to medical care. Sadly, hunger usually comes with the territory.
But looking at someone who may be hungry and knowing I might see right through them because they look or act just like me is a much tougher concept to grasp. It takes attention and focus.
My lesson: More often these days, it is hard to know that people around us may need food, shelter or even a job. My hope is that we will respect our common bond of humanity enough to be sensitive to each others’ needs. Today I needed this reminder.