Post # 122 “I’m hungry,” he said.

May 31, 2013 at 5:15 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

“I’m hungry,” he said.

I was at a small diner, waiting to pick up my to go order.  It was near noon on a hot summer day.  The kid standing next to me looked about eleven or twelve.  Typical summer kid uniform, scruffy cut off shorts, t shirt, canvas tennis shoes.  All over covered in dust and dirt, except his ball cap.  He must have been pretty proud of that cap because it was nearly as clean as new.

The kid was looking at the counter so I couldn’t tell who he was talking to, me or the waitress.  She and I looked at each other in surprise.  In that moment of eye contact, understanding passed between us.

“What’ll you have, Sport?” I asked.  I already had my wallet out for my food so paying for his didn’t seem like a big deal.

He looked up at me with the biggest brownest eyes I’d ever seen.  Mistrust shone through them.

“You playing a game, mister?” he asked, his voice gruff with emotion.

I shook my head and repeated my question, a little softer.

He looked over at the waitress who had her pad and pencil ready for him.  “Really?  What can I have?”

“Anything you like.  Make sure you get enough.”

His order went on for several seconds.  “Okay,” I said, when he was done. “You go grab us table and I’ll be right there.”  I paid for his food and winked at the waitress.

He’d taken a booth by the window and looked up as I slid onto the seat across from him.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked suspiciously.

“Because I can.  I work, get paid, and I can afford it.  What made you come in here?”

He shrugged.  “I was hoping the waitress might feel sorry for me.”

“When did you eat last?”

He thought about it.  “I had a piece of toast at breakfast, some oatmeal for dinner last night.  Before that it was a couple of days.”

“Where are your parents?”

“Mom works most days, and dad works odd jobs wherever he can.  He was hurt on his last job and can’t do a whole lot right now.”

“So it’s just you at home during the day?”  I was a little surprised.  Most people had families or other support networks.  It takes a village, right?

“Yeah, I have a little sister but she goes to day care at some church.  I suppose I could go there too, but, well, I didn’t really want to.”

I understood.  At that age, I wanted to be out roaming around, too.  The waitress put the food down, plus a little extra.  I took my lunch out of the bag and joined him.  Through our conversation, I found out that he was looking for work to help out his family.

“Bet you didn’t find anything, did you?” I said.

He shook his head.  “A couple of times I got a few dollars for things like walking a dog or moving trash, but I’m looking for something steady.”

“You know, you’re too young for a regular job.  No one would hire you outright.”

He nodded.  “But I gotta do something.  This can’t go on.  I gotta help out!”

We continued talking about various things while he filled his stomach.  I asked the waitress for a box for the leftovers, and she brought back three already filled.  After the kid left, another man joined me.

“Don’t worry yourself.” he said.  “Any time that kid comes in here, he’ll get fed.  And I’ll find something for him to do.”

“Thanks,” I replied, realizing I was talking to the owner.  “Let me help pay for some of that.”  I handed him a small wad of cash, what I could spare myself.  “It’s heartbreaking when you see it like that.”

We both felt a little comforted by helping the little that we could.

****************

Okay, so the above story never happened.  It was actually the beginning to a story I was writing several months ago that never got off the ground.  But the events in the story, and events like it happen every day.  Hunger in America is rampant; at its highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  Every city has food banks, and many churches provide food and necessities as they can.  We’ve donated bunches of dollars and food to these organizations on local levels.

Childhood hunger is even worse.  Millions of kids go to sleep each night not knowing what or if they will eat in the morning.  During the school year, many schools provide breakfast and lunch.  Kids race to the cafeteria to get fed and enjoy eating.  In summer, they don’t have those options.  In summer, school programs stop.  In summer, we tend to forget.

My mom often told me that most of the world’s problems would disappear if everyone had enough to eat.  She fed everyone.  A family legend tells the story of the time a family friend stopped by on his walk home from work to get out of the heat for a few minutes.  He sat on the couch and sighed as he enjoyed the air conditioning.  In moments, Dad handed him a beer, and Mom had a plateful of grilled cheese sandwiches on his lap.  He laughs as he tells the story, ending with, “I wasn’t even hungry, but I ate every one of those sandwiches.  The beer was good too.”

I know everyone wants to do what they can, but many times they aren’t sure what they can do.  They have their own families to think about; their own bills to pay; their own set of challenges to overcome.  But there is something we can all do to help offset the summer time hunger that afflicts so many children.

Many of the foods we buy have 8 digit codes on them.  If you go to the website listed below, select a state, enter the code, they will provide a meal free of charge.  There are also links provided with other things we can all do to help.

I know this isn’t the kind of post I normally write, but it’s hard to write about food every day and not think about people being hungry.

Thanks!!

 

 

http://www.childhungerendshere.com/

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2 Comments

  1. wonderful post!!! something is terribly wrong. no child in this country should ever go to sleep hungry. kudos!!

    • In answer to the question you emailed earlier, yes, food stamp (or derivative thereof) use is at an all time high. So why is hunger so high? There are a couple of hundred reasons, each as valid as the next. But in relation to this post, my gut feeling is that the recipients of the program are misusing them, and of those that truly need them, many are too proud. I was at a time in my life not very long ago, when I needed the boost and would have qualified, but chose not to take it because I was embarrassed and because I wanted someone who needed it more than I did to get it. Hope that helps you.


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