My wife and I were disturbed this week by news that some friends of ours had no food and no money to buy food. This was particularly upsetting because there are two young children in the house.
The mother, like my wife, is an immigrant from Togo. She earns a living braiding hair. Evidently, having your hair braided is one of those discretionary purchases that people have less money to spend on these days. However, a hair client got them through the week, so we waited until today to surprise them with a couple of months' worth of groceries.
The girls were overjoyed and immmediately pounced on the fruit and began eating it. This is not exactly an image of famine, just hunger and want, which is too close to famine for me - too close when it's in what I consider to be my extended family, and in my own town.
I edit a community newspaper, and we regularly do stories about community service organizations, food banks, homeless outreach, all of the things community newspapers cover when they are responsive to the needs of the poor and marginalized. Now I will be contacting these same organizations on behalf of our friends, to see what help is available to them.
Driving through their neighborhood in North County, which could be fairly characterized as lower-middle-class, my wife observed the almost complete absence of Christmas lights or decorations. We imagined that people are stringing up fewer lights because they have less money to pay electricity bills, and are making less of a fuss over Christmas because there really won't be that much of a Christmas this year.
It reminded me how, just this morning, our daughter (age five) told me she didn't think she would be receiving as many gifts from Santa Claus this year. I turned on her and asked, "Why?" There are a number of reasons why she could have arrived at that impression, none of them good.
She said, "Because I didn't put that many things on my list this year."
I left it at that. But now I wonder if she has heard how her parents have been talking about money, and if maybe she is doing her own small part toward getting through these hard times, which our president-elect predicts will only get harder before they get any better.
The orange I am eating right now is the most delicious orange I have ever tasted in my life. Meriwether Lewis once said hunger is the best gravy. Gratitude and humility are pretty good seasonings, too.