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Sunday, November 7, 2010

Are You Hungry? Too Many of Us Are. Come On Over...

     I live on Long Island, in New York state. Maybe you've heard of it. It's shaped like a fish and sticks out of the corner where NY and NJ meet. Two of our counties are considered among the richest in the nation. You've heard of it, haven't you? The Hamptons...Wine Country....mansions on the North Shore. Yeah, that's us, and no, I don't live in any of those areas. In fact, as rich as Long Islanders are supposed to be, I recently learned that over 300,000 families are considered "food insecure." (That's the PC way to say hungry.) Meaning that they have to make a choice each week to buy food or pay the mortgage/rent or go to the doctor without health insurance, or fill up the gas tank in their car so they can earn that next pay check. Yet, if you look around, even in the poorest of areas, everyone is still wearing designer sneakers that match their designer bag (which is probably an illegal knock off anyway, but still). Everyone is trying to maintain this image that THEY are not one of those 300,000. But as a teacher in a middle class school district, I can tell you it's all for show. Long Islanders are hungry. Americans are hungry. Humans are hungry. All over the world, people are hungry. What are we feeding ourselves? This is the problem.

    One of the most inspirational women in the history of the world is Mother Teresa. Mother Teresa fed the hungry. And, I don't mean that she donated a can of lima beans to a local food drive once a year before Thanksgiving. (Although, she would never have looked down upon that, she did say "If you can't feed a hundred people, feed just one.") Mother Teresa physically fed people. She turned no one down from any race, creed or religion. And she made real change in this world. Interestingly enough, she spoke a lot about the hungry, but not just the food insecure. She said:
 "The greatest disease in the West today is not TB or leprosy; it is being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for. We can cure physical diseases with medicine, but the only cure for loneliness, despair, and hopelessness is love. There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread but there are many more dying for a little love.
The poverty in the West is a different kind of poverty -- it is not only a poverty of loneliness but also of spirituality. There's a hunger for love..." (A Simple Path: Mother Teresa)

     This is the type of hunger we can all do something about. Look around you. Pay attention to the people in your family, those with whom you work, or see on a daily basis in some other capacity. Do they hunger? Are they empty? Is there anything you can do? Sometimes people just need someone to listen. Sometimes a child just needs to know there is one adult around him he can trust. Maybe your elderly neighbor just wants someone to share a cup of tea. Love is like a virus, it spreads. When people receive love, they are less afraid to give love. When people see an example of goodness, they are inspired to be an example of goodness.

     Maybe you are the hungry one. Maybe you are looking for an ounce of goodness in what seems to be a heartless world. May you have lost all faith in humankind. I remember when I first read Mother Teresa's book, No Greater Love. I was struck by a passage where she described the generosity of the truly destitute. She spoke of a mother to whom she gave a bag of rice. That mother did not just use the rice to feed her own children. She fed her neighbors too. She gave away something that was so precious to her family. True generosity hurts because it involves sacrifice. Don't misunderstand. I am not telling you to give away your livelihood. But sometimes a small sacrifice to you, going a little bit out of your way for someone else, can mean so much to someone who hungers.

     The world is a place with A LOT of problems, and so often we feel helpless to affect change. I'm just one person. But think about it, if one person reaches out to two people. And each of those two people reach out to two people. And those 4 people reach out to 2 people. And then those 8 people reach out to two people. Before long a thousand people are reaching out to two thousand people. And two thousand people are reaching out to four thousand people. Do the get the picture. You CAN make a difference. You CAN affect change in small ways every day. And when you give love, you will feel it growing inside of you. You will begin to satiate your own hunger. One last quote from the soon to be Saint:

 "May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us."

Love and happiness to you always....

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