A version of this post originally ran in August 2012. I got a nudge on Saturday from God to rerun it. You’re welcome.
… and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday. ~ Isaiah 58:10
Enjoying the summer weather on the beach in Florida is a favorite past time for many and the other day found me with a bunch a people who’d picnicked together and throughout the day, eaten our fill of fried chicken, baked beans, coleslaw … the works … complete with several desserts. As we were packing up to leave there was a little more than half a chicken left, some baked beans, some pieces of fruit and a bunch of cookies. No one wanted to take them and I watched as our hostess moved to throw them away.
Horrified, I stopped her. “Let me take them,” I said. “Surely there has got to be some homeless around I can give this too.” The hostess shrugged and packed up the food in a large plastic grocery bag for me.
A man who’d overheard me waved his hand in a flourish and asked, “Who’s hungry around here?”
I looked at him incredulously and countered, “How many streets west do you think you’d have to drive before you’re out of the multi-million dollar beach front?”
“About six, I’d guess.”
“Well, in about six blocks I bet I run across some hungry people.” I took the bag full of leftovers and trudged off through the sand to find some homeless.
I don’t know what made me turn down that particular street, but as I drove slowly into this area I saw a few people fishing from a pier and a lady walking toward me with a little dog on a length of string. She was quite thin, had lovely long wavy blond hair, and had on a shirt, cut-off denim shorts, and flip flops. Our paths were going to intersect and as she got closer, I stopped my car and rolled down my window.
“Excuse me,” I called out. She looked up and made her way to my car.
Coming closer I could see that she wasn’t just slender – she was rail-thin. The kind of skinny you get when you don’t have enough to eat. She also looked much older than I originally thought she was and I could see her hair wasn’t blond at all, but gray. I’m not good with ages, especially when someone has lived a hard life, but it didn’t matter in my mission.
“Do you know of any homeless around here or anyone who is hungry?” I asked.
What a question, I thought to myself. Do you ever say something and then have that sinking feeling that you could have said what you said a whole lot more eloquently? I smiled expectantly at her hoping to erase that awful inquiry as the words hung between us.
She smiled an almost toothless grin and said, “We are. We are the hunger.”
“Oh good,” I blurted out.
What was wrong with me? I thought to myself. I continued quickly, “I don’t mean good that you’re hungry, but good that I found you because I have some food.”
She laughed and repeated, “We are hunger.” I guess she knew what I meant. I handed over my bag of leftovers, immediately sorry I didn’t have more.
Taking the food, she looked me in the eye and said, “God bless you.” I shook my head not at all in a position to accept the blessing – she was blessing me! For a few scraps of food! It was too much! mainly because I know that only a slight twist in my own past could have easily put me in her position.
I don’t know about you but I get angry that there are hungry people in the US, one of the wealthiest nations on the planet. And I get irritated when I hear people with more than enough questioning the fact that there are actually people in need right here in our neighborhood. And I become very sad that we, as a nation, don’t do enough to make sure that there are no homeless and no person going hungry.
Jesus said we will always have the poor with us. (Matthew 26:11) It’s what we do for them and how we treat them that defines us as a society.
But on this day I slid my car out of park and drove slowly away wiping tears with the back of my hand and repeating her words …
We are the hunger.