Last night as my wife and I rode home from an event, she told me that our son had been ordering extra food at lunchtime for his classmates who didn’t have money and were hungry. I replied to her that I never minded him doing that. She went on to tell me that our son nearly protested that she and I wouldn’t take him to his school’s family reading event last night. When she said that we wouldn’t be able to go, he, like any other nine-year-old who wouldn’t get what they wanted, began to bristle and moan. However, he immediately stopped once dear mother told him why we couldn’t go. “Daddy and I are going to a dinner that raises awareness about those in our community who don’t have food to eat.” She told me that his immediate reaction was to raise both hands, palms facing her as if to say, “Stop,” and he then said, “No, you guys go to that. It’s much more important.” In the blink of an eye, our nine-year-old son had gone from nearly whining to a rather sympathetic and mature response that focused on caring for others’ needs rather than his wants. This is likely because some of his classmates have told him, as he’s passed on to us, that the only meals they sometimes get are those provided in school.
Last night, the local United Way and WoodmenLife chapters hosted a joint dinner to address hunger in our county. While the attendance was modest, it was the first time they’d ever hosted such an effort. Those in attendance were placed at one of three tables: low income, middle income, and high income. Where we all sat was predetermined and given to us on cards. A local restaurant, Sirloin Stockade, provided the food at no cost, and any donations—the suggested price was $15.00 per attendee—went to one of our local charities (Murray-Calloway County Need Line) that assists people with basic needs such as food and other necessities. Based on whichever table one was at, their meal portion coincided to that income base. Looking at the portions was not too big a surprise, but it was a stark example of many people’s realities.
I learned that divorce, death, and disability affected one’s food security while education, employment, and economic development made one’s food safety better. Forty-six percent of Calloway County households that receive food stamps have children eighteen years old and under and to meet the overall food insecurity needs of our county, $3 million dollars is required. I realize that there are abuses of the benevolence offered in our community, and there are also people who need to prioritize the necessities of life and do without their alcohol and other distasteful habits. Nevertheless, with the exceedingly high costs of prescription medicine, some seniors have to choose between meds that help them and groceries. Also, I think more so of my son’s classmates and others like them who may not be as blessed to have the home life that we endeavor to give our son. He never has to worry about his next meal, what he’ll wear, and where he’ll sleep on a daily basis. I hate the very thought of a child starving right in my backyard.
Basil of Caesarea, a fourth-century clergyman, worked alongside the bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius. A few years after Basil made this decision to work here, a famine struck Cappadocia after a winter drought. Wealthy Christians, who also happened to be rather greedy, had an abundance of grain in their barns but withheld it due to the famine. Basil appealed to those to whom he preached:
Care for the needy requires the expenditure of wealth: when all share alike, disbursing their possessions among themselves, they each receive a small portion for their individual needs. Thus, those who love their neighbor as themselves possess nothing more than their neighbor; yet, surely you seem to have great possessions! How else can this be, but that you have preferred your own enjoyment to the consolation of the many? For the more you abound in wealth, the more you lack in love.
To be sure, Basil guilt-tripped the Christians for behaving so unChristianly. He went on to rebuke them by saying:
But you! You keep everything locked up and securely fastened with gates and bars. You lie awake at night with worry …. You begrudge your fellow human beings what you yourself enjoy; taking wicked counsel in your soul, you consider not how you might distribute to others according to their needs, but rather how, after having received so many good things, you might rob others of their benefit.
These Christians in the fourth century had been only hearers of the Word and not doers. As time went on, Basil tempered his speech towards them and appealed to their love of God and Christ:
Rather, the reason why our needs are not provided for as usual is plain and obvious: we do not share what we receive with others. We praise beneficence, while we deprive the needy of it …. Though we have a God who is generous and lacks nothing, we have become grudging and unsociable towards the poor …. Our storehouses groan with plenty, yet we have no mercy on those who groan with want. For this reason we are threatened with righteous judgment. This is why God does not open his hand: because we have closed up our hearts towards our brothers and sisters. This is why the fields are arid: because love has dried up.
While I can honestly say that Murray-Calloway County is a generous area in which to live, that wasn’t the case in ancient Cappadocia. Rather, the famine and Basil’s efforts eventually gave birth to the first hospital. Because of Christ, and Basil’s efforts, hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, and other organizations were established to meet the needs born by this drought.
What struck me last night was that two benevolent societies, though not necessarily Christian in their mission, were taking the lead on hunger in our community. I want to know, where is the church? After all, it was our Lord who once said, “For I was hungry and you gave Me food … inasmuch as did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:35, 40). While many churches in our area do what we can, we also realize that we can’t do it all alone. I was happy to see that someone was taking this initiative despite my ignorance on the issue in our community.
At Glendale Road, we have a caring and sharing facility behind the church building. Every Monday, from 8–10 a.m., people can come by and pick up one pre-made box of non-perishables. All they have to do is show proof of income, Calloway County residency, and a picture identification. They can take one box per month. Sadly, these measures are in place because we’re only equipped to help so many so often and to prevent abuse. Each Tuesday evening, from 5–8 p.m., people can come to that same building and go through the closet and get clothing that has been donated. A meal is also offered at seven p.m. with a Bible study preceding the meal at six p.m. There are usually twenty or so people who attend the Bible study, but anyone can come for the food. This is open to as many times as one would care to come. Also, one of the members at Glendale Road began a ministry called Soup for the Soul where people can get a meal Monday–Friday at supper time each week. While so many measures exist to help those in need, there is still work to be done.