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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Truly, people do go hungry

I am saddened by the death of Ann Bumgardner but inspired by her example. At age 65 with a tiny body but a huge heart, she had become a regular volunteer at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle where Gail is also a long-time volunteer and on whose Board of Directors I chaired for a time. Having come to know well both Ann and her husband Carl, I am confident that she would want me to explain a few things to my mostly-prosperous readers and anyone else who happens to find this blog:
  • Truly, there are people in the Triangle who go hungry often.
  • A significant percentage of them are children.
  • If you disagree with the first two statements, your vision is blocked by the opaque eggshell of wealth that you live inside. Break out of it and look around.
  • Some of the hungry lost their way as consequences of their own mistakes. Others have mental illnesses; still others are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. All three look the same in a soup line.
  • Some people receive assistance who don't need it. Every social service agency is alert to this. It's not a valid reason to refuse relief to those who do need it.
  • A much larger number of people who need relief are too proud or to embarrassed to ask for it.
  • Relieving hunger is about good nutrition, not simply offering sodas and junk food.
  • The Food Shuttle understands the proverb about teaching people to fish and therefore expends as much managerial effort on preventive programs as it does on the core program of relieving hunger.
  • Volunteers like Ann make the Food Shuttle and many other social service agencies possible.
  • Volunteering at a social service agency is fun, inspirational, and educational. You find people like Ann there.
If you are familiar with Christianity, you know the story of the Holy Innocents — a reminder that the joy of Christmas does not magically dispel the reality that the world is a gritty, often unpleasant, and sometimes dangerous place. I encourage you to stick your hands into the reservoir of Christmas joy and, as Ann did, volunteer for a social service agency in 2015. If you follow principles of a different religion, odds are that it also encourages you to volunteer along these lines (e.g., sadaqah in Islam). And if you are solidly an agnostic or atheist (and not an Ayn Rand objectivist), out of a humanist view of altruism I make the same recommendation.