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.