Whenever we talk about helping those in need, there's a tendency to set up a false dichotomy of us versus them. Keeps the road between us long and the weeds tall so that we can tell ourselves they were never us, and we could never become them.
My message today is brief:
In this season of giving, there are more Americans going hungry than in any time in recent history. If you're not worried about putting food on your table, please ask your friends and loved ones to skip your present and, instead, give the gift of a meal in your name.
No matter where you live in this country, there is a food pantry near you. To find one, go online, or call a library or house of worship in your neighborhood.
I'm done talking. Here are some of the people — in their own words — who depend on pantries served by the Cleveland Foodbank. They wrote messages on paper plates, about 1,500 so far, to be delivered to state legislators in Columbus:
"I've been working for over 25 years and never needed any kind of help. I've lost my job two months ago and if this food pantry wasn't available we'd be hungry at least 1 week at the end of the month. Please keep up, so people like myself have it in their time of need. Thank you."
"I have two people in my house unemployed unable to find work. I work at Wendy's for very little money but just enough to make me ineligible for help. I also have a 151/2 year old. The food assist is great because the money I save not buying food I can use toward my bills & rent. I am fortunate to be up to date on bills and rents thanks to this program. Thank you. Times are very hard on everyone. Thanks."
"Well I have been a welder for 20 years. Unfortunately the career I chose hasn't been favorable for employment, so I come to this food center for food assistance as well as the nice people, sometimes a hot meal and a very friendly, welcoming staff! I had to cut back to keep up! I have enrolled in school and where this year wasn't that great, guess what? There's always tomorrow!"
"The food pantry is greatly appreciated to me and my family. I work 2 part-time jobs and garbage scrap just to make ends meet."
"Found a job with less pay. Wife became handicap. Started looking at flea markets, used clothing stores and free medical. Lost my job of 32 years and got no pension health or medical benefits with children at home."
"I got laid off in Florida, came here to Ohio — got laid off. I have a bachelor's degree and still can't get a job. My son is diabetic and I take care of my disabled mother. The food bank has been my Savior. Without them I don't know what I would do."
"I found a job it's part time 8-10 hours a wk. min. wage. This food pantry is so helpful, it helps. I decided to volunteer to help."
"I am a single mom of three and on disability. Since I started receiving disability my food stamps were cut in half. This place has been a life saver for me and my boys. I can't drive because of disability and can't eat anywhere else. Thank you."
"Just started working minimum wage job can't make ends meet. Get sick, its medicine or food. The pantry helps because I will be able to save a little every month and hopefully become self-sufficient."
"My unemployment has run out. I am 60 years old and no one will hire me in my job field or any other job — rent runs out November and will be on the street in our van."
"Can't afford our health insurance anymore, will have to cancel in January 2011. Disconnection notices on utilities. Behind on our mortgage. At least get some food from the food bank. My husband and I are both working. Can't survive anymore."
"For people living in this zip code, many of us had good careers. But due to illness our things of that nature we live here. We feel blessed that other communities help with these pantries. We are all important even if we are poor. Thanks for caring."
Somewhere near you, families are struggling with hunger.
© 2010 Creators Syndicate