Audacious Notions & Those Without

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Today I scrub potatoes, a plentiful staple in our home and my mind settles on the faces of those without.

And I wonder, why so many?

My body tenses and my pulse quickens as I think upon the face of an old man, riding a bicycle down the boulevard in our town. His clothes ragged, his beard white and full. The bike basket holding a dozen or so aluminum cans. I wonder who he is, and does anyone really see him. Is he cold and hungry?

Grabbing a knife I begin to slice the vegetables for tonight’s dinner of soup. Fresh potatoes and leeks and dill and butter and full stomachs. That is the beautiful part. The ugly spoiled sour reality is that I might hear complaints. “Yuck, it smells like onions.” “Ew, why’d you use that?”

My mood falters between gratitude and frustration. I don’t want to hear complaints. It isn’t just my family. Isn’t that a common refrain in the lands of plenty? Displeasure when anything but our favorites are served?

My stomach turns. Countless stories I have heard of the children reaching desperately to the foreigners, hoping for a crumb of food. I see their faces, even though the references come only through pictures. They are real. There is no need to go out of the country. Here, surrounded by abundance, many go hungry tonight. I see peripheral tents in the city. I feel cold in my house, and imagine how magnified the chill is for the homeless.

My eyes water as I sauté the leeks. I want to pretend that it is the odor, but that would be only partly true. The tears are for those that have not. I prepare to make bread, in a machine, with paltry effort. But first, I must throw out the rest of a moldy loaf, forgotten. And I know how many would fight for even a distasteful leftover. Trash to me, invaluable treasure to others.

I grab a snack size pack of M & M’s. Even there the truth assaults me. My handful of candy is labeled “fun” size. We even have food, unnecessary, delicious food, purely for a casual snack. And my heart shudders with wonder. Why should I have this treat? Why me?

My family has known difficulties if we choose to look at it that way. Many brought on by our own choices, others circumstantial.  Certainly we have had people feel sad for us that unfortunate situations seem to follow us. And that is the shard that finally pierces my heart and the truth oozes out.

I write about my troubles from a heated home. With fresh food cooking on my stove. With children relatively healthy. We have no “money” but our needs are abundantly met. We have gone without, but never without a roof. Without basic food. Without family and a support system if needed. What do I, we, really understand of living without?

And the truth oozes further out, staining my words with the reality. I care deeply. I have always wondered why we have, and others do not. I see suffering and feel helpless. What do I do? What can I do to make a difference?

I am ashamed to be so fortunate. Yet, this is not correct either. I am reminded of Jesus’ parable of the rich young man who wanted to know how to enter heaven. He was told to give his wealth to the poor, and he walked away sad. Unable to let go of his earthy treasure.

Isn’t that me sometimes? I want to help. To fix.I am compassion.

I, in all truth, don’t want to give all I have. I don’t want to join the ranks of inestimable poverty to show people I care. Would that do any good?

I don’t know the next steps completely.

I do know God continues to open my eyes and develop my skill with words. I have known for decades the imprint of design that demands I speak for those who cannot. I want instant gratification. To fix all things now. Anything less feels inadequate.  I must remember that my job is to do what I can, when I can.

I need not be ashamed that I am cared for. My tension eases as I write. There is nothing wrong with “having” except lack of gratitude. Grumbling about what we “have not”, while our homes overflow with stuff. If we are blessed, are we humbly thanking God?

What can I do? I can tell you what I see.

Write, write and bleed out the words of pain in the world to make you notice. Somehow maybe we’ll both walk away inspired.  At least, aware.

I don’t want to think about this, and then go on my way, tucking myself into a cozy bed tonight while I forget those suffering around me. My last truth? I will. I can’t help it, yet.

I am human and part of a society that puts “self” first. Numero uno.

I will continue watching, listen, and learning. I know these things will ignite me.

These words are today’s action.

It won’t feed the man on the bike, the family in a tent, the multitudes in slums. My action might spur your action. If you listen to my words and are moved, but do not move, then I have failed.

Walk with me. Open your eyes. Care.

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About christasterken

Committed to a life of purpose. Learning to live abundantly. Embracing creativity. Questioning. Delighting in the comforts of home and family. Determining not to settle only for how things are, but how they could be. Writing is part of who I am, so I trust In God who gave the gift to show me how I can serve Him through it. That is my life…one word at a time. Psalm 89:11a“Teach me your way , O Lord, and I will walk in your truth”

8 responses »

  1. My daughter and I were just commenting the other day near my house as a man stood by the freeway entrance asking for help. I think we have become cynical about these people. Are they really hungry? Do they really need help? I have seen some of these same people walk away later and get into very nice cars and drive to homes. My sister has offered to buy someone lunch from a fast food place that she has just come from because they say they want money for food. She has bought them lunch only to have them take the lunch and toss it when they think she isn’t looking because they would rather have the money for something else. I hate to be this way but I have seen so much that causes me to distrust those that are asking for money or food.

    Instead I donate my time, efforts and money to making quilts for all the children in the children’s hospital who are there for cancer treatments and other maladies. I donate to other charitable causes when I can.

  2. http://www.foodrescue.net/ This organization rescues food that would be thrown in the trash from our affluent society and sends it to food pantries and kitchens that help those in need. If you don’t have one in your town – you can start one. If you do have one in your town, you can volunteer to transport food from the restaurant to the food pantry/kitchen. You can talk to restaurants to see what they do with their left over food and if they do not donate, try to hook them up with Food Rescue. There are protections for those who donate and tax incentives.

    If you’re in Anderson, there are many agencies that serve meals or distribute food – The Christian Center, Park Place Church of God, Operation Love, The Salvation Army, First UMC in town…

  3. Christa…. I could not even respond to this post last night when I read it. I was too moved. I continue to stand in awe, not only of your feelings, but of your God-given ability to express them. You need a larger audience. Have you considered sending this or something similar to your local newspaper for a possible column?

  4. A good word Christa, and especially as we enter into the season of Advent it is so right for people here in the land of plenty to remember those who are hungry and naked and poor, as our Lord reminded us that when we fed and clothed them, we fed and clothed Him. Bless you for the reminder.

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