How’s your 2015 going so far? Feeling strong? Feeling focused? Feeling beautiful? Holding tight to hopes and dreams for the year?
Umm, not me. My house feels cold and we’ve had some hard surprises. I’m coping at the stove, making hearty meals, baking gooey treats, and getting warm. Last night I think I ate 100 delicious crispy mini tater tots. So today, in addition to feeling cold and stressed, I feel shame. Good times.
Whenever something feels too intense (i.e. I hate it), I’m trying to get perspective and consider what Compassion could look like in it. It’s a mental and spiritual discipline that gently erodes my shaming heart and ungratefulness.
If you are dealing with tight pants and find yourself muttering, “oh gosh I feel fat,” consider these compassionate alternatives:
1. Hungry in the Suburbs – I can’t remember the last time I’ve been legitimately hungry. I fill my Costco and Trader Joes carts with all sorts of unnecessary (but delicious) food, experiment with fun recipes, and frequently get seconds. But hunger lurks in the corners of my comfortable town. According to Loaves & Fishes:
- 9.1% of DuPage County residents (nearly 100,000 people) are food insecure (meaning they are not assured of three daily meals).
- 16.4% of children in DuPage County are food insecure.
We live three blocks away from the People’s Resource Center. I love this place. I sense deep and ennobling community as people browse the well-stocked shelves. There is often a colorful street market vibe outside with bread stacked on racks and boxes of fresh flowers. Every time I drop something off the volunteers are friendly and helpful. No donation is too small – they encourage donating what’s in your fridge before a vacation. They happily took all my cereal, pasta and cake mixes when we went gluten free. They are especially looking for:
- Fresh Produce – especially items that keep well, like apples, carrots, onions, winter squash, sweet potatoes, cabbage, oranges
- Canned goods – fruits, veggies and soups, especially low-salt or no sugar added
- High Protein – peanut butter, tuna, beans, and canned chicken, chili, or stew
- Whole Grains – whole wheat pasta, brown rice, cereal
- Household Items – disposable diapers, bar soap, toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, laundry detergent
If you are curious about helping the hungry in your own town you can google “Food Pantry” or “Hunger” and your town’s name.
We can also donate food right at the grocery store. If you’re pulling your hair out at the store, ask your kids to pick out their favorite cereal, noodles, or peanut butter to share with someone having a hard time. They can put in the donation basket up front. It will give them something to do and open the door for conversations about gratefulness.
My plan this week is to put back my designer goat cheese and beloved Jay’s Barbecue Potato Chips and buy food to donate at the register instead.
2. Hungry Children – In a country mocked for obesity, one in six Americans struggle to get enough to eat. The No Kid Hungry organization states: “More than 16 million kids in America live in households that struggle to put food on the table. 16 million kids would fill over 845 basketball arenas.”
Once again this is where public schools are meeting the greatest needs. Organizations like No Kid Hungry advocate for more schools to add Breakfast and Summer Meals programs in addition to their regular Lunch Programs. This is a huge gift to struggling families. Our school has a growing number of homeless and refugee children.
My daughter’s class regularly sends home books with every student’s unique take on a the same assignment. This is what caught my eye the first month of school:
Greta’s classmate’s main meals are at school. My kids would freak out if their only meals were in the cafeteria. The social worker helped me understand more about hunger in our school, especially about what the kids eat on the weekends and over breaks. This led to a little project to provide shelf-stable food for kids during our long Thanksgiving Break. Folks donated backpacks, Ready-Mac, trail mix, cereal bars, and fun activities. Our goal was fifteen, but because of overwhelming generosity we were able to fill 40 backpacks with a simple breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner for eight days. It was a powerful compassion experiment.
There are great national organizations providing food for hungry kids like Feed the Children, Feeding America, and World Vision who desperately need donations. Or you can go local by asking your school nurse, school social worker, or church office if there are any families that need help getting food on the table.
3. Hungry all over the world. I distinctly remember Sally Struthers begging me to give my coffee money to starving children during my Saturday morning cartoons. Her voice and hair were jarring and the kids were uncomfortable. I didn’t want to think about kids being hungry while I smelled my Dad’s fresh waffles in the background. But that doesn’t make it go away.
Here are sobering statistics from the World Food Programme:
Some 805 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth
The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 13.5 percent of the population is undernourished.
Asia is the continent with the most hungry people – two thirds of the total. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence (percentage of population) of hunger. One person in four there is undernourished.
Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.
Did your eyes glaze over reading those stats? How can we think about global hunger without getting stressed or cynical? Focus on one person. This is where all the sponsorship programs come in. Perhaps this is where your family finds their Compassion Focus this year – going to one of the dozens of sites that offer child sponsorship and giving up pizza or ice-cream to cover the monthly donation. World Vision, Food For the Hungry, and Heifer Project have years of experience with the “teach a man to fish” approach.
Our family enjoys going to Feed My Starving Children. They have a fun, efficient system to hand-pack meals for kids all over the world. They play loud music and encourage shouting and competition. There is so much energy and laughter! The goal is to pack enough boxes to fill a pallet that will be shipped to a specific country. I’ve been there a few times and always leave feeling like I Made a Difference. It’s a great place for birthday parties.
Lastly, are you being compassionate with yourself, even if your pants are tight? Can you look in the mirror without sighing? Can you be gracious and generous with yourself?
You are loved.
For more about doing Compassion as a family, click here.
For more about turning complaints into compassion read “It’s Cold.”
© Aimee Fritz & Family Compassion Focus, 2014-2015