As a Christian, I am called to feed the orphaned and the widowed. To fail to do so is tantamount to failing to love God. If I claim to be a Christian and do not love the people and things that He loves, I am a liar. I am called to work the the disenfranchised, dispossessed and the disadvantaged. For the last year, I volunteered with minority 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at an elementary school in East Oakland. This part of the city is one of the poorest, most violent parts of Oakland. Ninety percent of the students at this school were eligible for the Free Lunch Program, which provides healthful lunches to impoverished children.
48% of the parents of these students are not high school graduates, 35% are high school graduates, 2% are college graduates, and 3% completed post-graduate degrees. The median income of the parents was $29,181, significantly lower than the U.S. average ($56,604). There were 53 liquor stores in this area, but no grocery stores. In the neighborhood in which I resided, there were 6 grocery stores in a 3 block radius. The very things I, a middle-class African-American woman, took for granted- access to fresh produce and meats- were the things these children did not have.
Every week, as I taught these girls to be computer literate, and to become little scientists, I felt a pang. My volunteering as a mentor and teacher afterschool was a mere drop in the bucket. There just had to be so much more that I could do! God placed this quandary heavily on my heart. At the the same time, I began to become aware of the prevalence of human trafficking in my own neighborhood. „Massage“ parlors were no longer strange establishments that were never open during the day. The cheap clothing I bought at Target and H&M were no longer produced by fully-consenting cheap labor. There is a deep hunger in this world, and it is not merely physical. By serving others in the act of feeding them, we follow Christ‘s example. Like touching a leper, feeding those whom the world has discarded redeems their irrefutable humanity. No longer „less-than,“ those who hunger become those are are fed, those who are acknowledged.
When I see that 80% of humans live on less than $10 a day, I cannot ignore the systemic inequity and the immoral apathy that allows poverty to be perpetuated. According to globalissues.org, more than 660 million people without sanitation live on less than $2 a day, and more than 385 million on less than $1 a day.
Add that to the fact that the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income. This is compounded by the fact that women and children are the most prone ot poverty, hunger and violence. Half of the world‘s children live in poverty, while so many of us take our great bounty for granted. While 25,000 children under the age of 5 die each day due to poverty (UNICEF), people like me live with relative ease. In light of the earthquake in Haiti, I think we could all stand to be outraged at the way their abject poverty and desperation is being exploited by the news networks in a way that numbs us to the immense suffering and humanity of the Haitian populace. Before the earthquake, over 48% of Haitians did not have access to fresh water, and before the earthquake, 80% of Haitians lived below the poverty line. CNN recently reported that as many as 225,000 Haitian children work as unpaid domestic slaves. Drawn by the promise of an education, these children are trapped into unbalanced terms of service. I was heartbroken to hear that kinship ties did not guarantee better treatment of children.
As the death toll reaches 140,000 in Haiti, I find it altogether fitting to be outraged and moved to action by this turn of events.
As such, it makes sense to be a Hunger Justice Leader. In service, I find purpose, and in fulfilling that purpose, I do God‘s work. It is an honor to be called to serve those the world would consider lowly. As it is said in Matthew 5:5: „The meek shall inherit the earth.“ Psalm 68:5 is an apt verse in this context, as I strive to be godly:
„A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.“