Our place in history ...

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Contemplative days ...

My lack of internet access during these past few days away from home only partly explains the lack of new posted material. This time of year was once very happy, recharging, and inspirational. Happenings in my personal life have magnified the sense of sobriety one feels when confronted with struggle. I am not Sisyphus. The burden of repositioning stone is not mine alone -- and it remains unclear whether or not this obligation (perceived to be unescapable) is truly a sentence or self-selected. Nevertheless, the headlines are there: Food pantries are suffering as a result of a tapped-out populous. It is unclear whether attention spans or pocketbooks are the first casualties of excessive calls for charity. It is not possible to pass judgement either way. Tsunamis, eathquakes, hurricanes, mudslides, compound the sense of urgency already called forth by the everyday presence of desparation. I live in Los Angeles, California, a city where you are much more likely to cross paths with homeless persons than famous ones. Hollywood mansions and trendy young stars continue to embody L.A.'s public face; beachside, blonde-haired, light-eyed, fitness models seem to make invisible the millions comprising the "black" and "brown" and "yellow" and "red" majority that lives further inland. I read a book once by a woman named Poppendick about the world of emergency food collection and delivery. It was painful. The bulk of work done takes place in cities where supermarkets are numerous and well-stocked. There is but one question, excluding children who are very young, and nonambulatory persons, why are the hungry not able to enter and pick out what they want to eat? The complex answer is further complicated by an unsettling realization: It is easy to motivate schoolchildren to collect cans of food and non-perishable boxed items; simple to motivate adults to donate a few dollars and/or hours of time to local kitchens, pantries, and missions. But it is almost unimaginably hard to encapsulate and solve the series of root causes that led us to require varying infrastructures for emergency food collection and distribution. I mentioned in my first post that this blog was an invitation. This continues to be true. I sit here trying to figure out how to work with people I have not yet worked with (or have been unable to successfully work with in the past). Not long ago I sat listening to a man who had lost all those he loved in Sudan. Both genocide and the act of speaking-out against it brought this loss. I do not pretend to have all the answers. My only contention is that we can do better. I know that at several points between that first Thanksgiving near Plymouth and President Lincoln's revisiting of that seemingly mythical event, several speakers asked of Americans and Europeans what this Sudanese man asked of me: "Will you please remember that I spoke to you -- I realize most cannot truly grasp what happened (many will only find Darfur on a map if ever they find it at all) and I do not wish for you to ever know empathy from first hand experience -- but, despite all the things that should keep you from understanding (different language, culture, home, and way of life) will you please remember I spoke to you because I believed in the power of your not forgetting; in the action inspired by memory?"


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