I have always celebrated my Midwestern roots. There is something beautiful about driving through the vastness of her fields. Plots of corn, soybeans, wheat, alfalfa, sunflower and sorghum — they go on for miles. By July, the waves of the ocean have nothing on the tassel-tipped green waves in the fields in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. Submerged in it, you’d think there was enough to feed the world ten times over. Then today I woke up to read that one in four children in America are malnourished, and nearly half of all children here are born into families that receive food subsidies. How can this be?
When I was in high school and college I worked at a local supermarket. I spent a lot of time bagging groceries. Maybe I bagged a few of yours (sorry about that bread, by the way). I remember the expectant mothers coming through the line with their WIC card in their hand and their heads held low. Milk, cheese, bread and cereal. Every time: milk, cheese, bread and cereal. They’d hand the card over to the cashier who’d let out a sigh. And as the barcode scanner beeped, it would startle them. Every time; like an alarm had been set off. “Look at me! Look at me! I’m a blight on society!” The only words I could muster were routine: paper or plastic. Like they really cared; whatever least prolonged the gauntlet of their shame. Behind them would be a woman with two carts full. That woman would mutter something like “I’d like to get free stuff, too. But I’ve got to pay for people like that.” To this day, I try not to get jaded. I try and forget, instead remembering the amber fields of grain that can feed the world ten times over.
For as long as I can remember, “What about the kids?” has been embedded in the rhetoric of the church. So, what about them? I know when we ask the question, it isn’t about these kids. It is about our kids. But what if ministry to children began with really feeding them instead of feeding them our stories? If we could solve that hunger – we with the two-carts full – I don’t think we’d have to worry about how few children were involved in communities of faith. Nor would we have to worry about who would inherit our faith from us.
As you see those kids walking to school this week, remember: one, two, three, hungry. one, subsidy, two, subsidy. And be thinking of how you (and we) can respond. I know I am today.
“For when I was hungry …” Matthew 25:35