We can look at hunger from various distances.
- Up close: my immediate situation, my neighborhood
- Midway out: my state, or even my country
- Bird’s-eye view: the global situation
It’s probably best to deal with one distance/view at a time. For instance, in my immediate situation, there are three different food banks to which I can contribute, or there are five community pantries. My church might be involved in a specific action that helps feed people. Or I might buy two sandwiches for my lunch and give one of them to the person begging down on the corner.
In the middle view, I will be dealing with organizations that create networks. Some of these organizations will be partisan, but many will not. Some of them will have religious affiliations, and others won’t. In participating with organizations, I may need to sign up as a member and guarantee my contribution.
In the global view, I will also be working with larger organized efforts. As with the local and mid-level organizations, I do well to check out the company, its financial records (which should be public, although perhaps not easy to find), and the extent of its activities. For instance, I may prefer to work with an organization that distributes foods that are high in nutrition and/or organic rather than one that makes use of overstocked potato chips and other highly processed foods. Then again, the organization that doesn’t have high nutrition standards may still be reaching the most families and providing, along with potato chips, other better foods.
Many of us participate in feeding the hungry on multiple levels. I work in our church’s garden every year, and we provide fresh, organic produce to women and children’s shelters right in our neighborhood. I give money to people on the street, although I have no control in how they spend it; I assume at least some of them are truly hungry and will buy food with it. I also donate regularly to an organization in Chicago that is quite efficient in getting large amounts of food to many families in the entire metro area. And I contribute to worldwide organizations, such as the Heifer Project, that not only help people get food immediately but also supply them with chicks, bees, and other livestock that make it possible for the family unit to keep producing food for itself and for others.
Giving drink to the thirsty is a trickier matter, because so much of the thirst on this planet is a direct result of damaged ecosystems that are still under the control of multinational corporations, along with, in some cases, corrupt governments who are more concerned with lining their pockets than with helping their people. Water crises motivate me to become more politically involved—although I’m still learning this and not too good at it. Our country’s foreign policies have an impact on hungry and thirsty populations, and so I feel that it’s my responsibility to stay somewhat informed so that I can support the politicians and organizations that try to operate according to the long view and the globally compassionate view.
But pulling back to the local view, thirst brings up other issues. Are there enough water fountains in my city or town? Or are people forced to spend money every time they are thirsty? Can a homeless person get the water she needs in the middle of summer? How many of us, children and adults, are dehydrated because we don’t drink the water that our bodies need? Giving drink to the thirsty sometimes means helping the thirsty find what is good and healthy to drink.
All right, enough from me. What about you? What have you learned about feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty? We need to inform and inspire one another.