By MaryAnn Kromer, firstname.lastname@example.org
A handful of community members brought canned goods and attended "A Hungry Heart: A Faith-Full Response" Wednesday at Old Trinity Episcopal Church. The Rev. Amy Fallon told those present that the church's lay governing board suggested hosting programs about various community issues. Hunger was chosen to coincide with the holidays, when Christians need to reflect on their neighbors who cannot afford the festive foods.
"Historically, one of the things the Episcopal Church has claimed for itself is to be the middle ground among a wide variety of opinions about everything. ... We can welcome people of widely divergent opinions about almost anything," Fallon said. "Our goal is not to convince you to think any particular thing or argue with you, but simply to engender some conversation on some issues that are critical in our world."
Fallon showed a video presentation with black and white photos of the poor in India, Kenya, Jamaica, Brazil, the Philippines, Mexico and the United States. The group also discussed some of the statistics mentioned in the program, such as:
n Children under age 5 are especially vulnerable to malnutrition and disease.
n Billions of people around the globe have no fresh water or places for sanitary disposal of wastes.
n Twenty children die every minute of every day from hunger or related diseases.
n The richest 20 percent of the world's population consumes 80 percent of its harvested resources.
n One in 10 U.S. households, or 36 million Americans, experiences hunger to some degree.
During the discussion, participants were asked to think about what they would be willing to give up to have more dollars for food. One suggestion was to share living quarters with other people to reduce housing expenses. The difficulty of doing that is giving up privacy and personal preferences.
Extra noise and crowding also can be a distraction that may lead to difficulty sleeping and some strained relationships with loved ones. Some people shared family stories related to times of reduced income.
Planting a garden also was suggested, but that would be limited to people who had outdoor space available. Those living in cities and other areas of dense population may not have that option. Someone mentioned gardening also requires an investment in tools and works best when more than one person shares responsibilities. The elderly, disabled and the very young may not be able to contribute.
Nearly everyone agreed that, although people do not regard themselves as "rich," they have become accustomed to buying and consuming many non-essential goods and services. Even so, they find it hard to give up many of our possessions. One participant pointed out most Americans can tolerate frugality because it is regarded as a temporary state, while citizens of poorer countries have little or no hope for better conditions in the future.
In closing, Fallon pointed out donating money to the poor may provide some satisfaction to the donors, but it is not the same as following the Gospel and being one with the poor. The faithful are called to give as much as they have and more.
Fallon closed with a challenge to the group to make a "concrete commitment" over a 30-day period to make do with less and contribute the funds saved to a charitable cause.