I have to admit that like many people, I spent a great portion of my life sort of indifferent to the problems that might happen outside of my immediate social circle or hometown. I used to make remarks about how we should take care of our own before helping other countries. I used to refuse to donate to humanitarian causes, choosing instead to direct my funds toward local high school sports teams, etc. I always felt that community should come first. This is not necessarily a bad or faulty train of thought. However, my attitudes on humanitarian causes have changed quite drastically in the past two years and I'll explain why.
I grew up in a comfortable home with a warm bed, plenty of food, medical care if I needed it, clean drinking water, nice cars and clothes. I never wanted for anything. It wasn't that I was never AWARE of the problems that exist, I was just very fortunate to not have to face them myself.
Because of my middle-class American upbringing I can say that although my heart always went out to any story of strife or struggling I heard, I did not have a connection to most of them. I volunteered for 10 years for the American Cancer Society, a cause very near and dear to my heart. And I donated extra cash to local football and music programs.
The major change in my life came when I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease and had to change the entire way I look at eating and food. For those who are not educated on Celiac Disease, it is an autoimmune condition that causes the body to attack and destroy itself and it's systems when any gluten is ingested. Gluten is the protein in wheat, barley, and rye and it is in EVERYTHING. And I mean everything. And even if you find something that it is NOT in (say a chicken breast or a potato) we cannot eat it if it is cooked on or near anything else that has cooked gluten-containing food. It is a HUGE lifestyle change. You suddenly have to become very aware of everything you eat, touch, or even inhale.
Being a Celiac requires a ton of thought and planning. I have to pack an ice chest of food to take with me anytime I'm going to be away from the house for more than a couple of hours. Although many restaurants offer gluten-free menus, many are not safe for most true Celiacs to eat at as the risk of cross-contamination is always very high in a busy restaurant.
Because of this, I have had a few VERY difficult moments in the past two years. There were a few times when I had not planned properly, didn't have the right groceries and would find myself in the middle of the night, intensely hungry, with nothing safe to eat. This is a very bad situation for a Celiac to get into because we can't just run to Subway and grab a sandwich or to Denny's at 3 am for a Grand Slam. If I can't prepare my own food I can't eat it.
I have learned to prevent this situation at all costs. But even so, there were just a small handful of times when I would be laying in bed in tears, stomach growling, feeling like crap because I was so hungry and knew I had to wait until the next day to get food. Being hungry is a terrible feeling. Of course the main emotion for me would be anger - at myself for not being prepared and at this stupid disease for making life so much more difficult. But the real, raw emotion that I felt was always intense sadness for anybody that ever HAS to go to bed hungry, not because of poor planning but simply because they do not have money to eat or even access to clean and healthy food.
If you have ever gone hungry, you know that you cannot function like that. The brain does not work properly, none of the bodily systems can function. Food is at the top of the absolutely essential things that we as humans HAVE TO HAVE to survive. Not to thrive. Not to be happy or fulfill our dreams. But just to merely survive.
I am so incredibly thankful that I have access to clean and healthy food and that I can afford to eat. I cannot stand the thought that there are people all over this city, this country, and this world who simply don't get to eat. It is an utter shame, and it is unforgiveable. There are children that are born and die without ever having a full stomach. Can you imagine all of the things they could become and experience if they only had the chance at a healthy life? It is utterly heartbreaking.
In the big picture, I have no idea what I can do to help the problem. I start small by being thankful each and every day that I am not hungry. I don't take it for granted - I plan my meals and don't get myself into those situations anymore where I have to go to bed hungry. I contemplate what we can do as a society to stop caring so much about things that don't matter and actually make a difference in helping fellow humans gain access to the most basic things they need to survive. I don't care what political or personal circumstances have caused someone to go hungry... I just want to feed them.
In the meantime, I have found some joy in purchasing things from FEED Projects, LLC. This company was founded by Lauren Bush and for every item you buy, a certain number of meals are provided to hungry children and families. The line is available at Target stores and there is everything from clothes to jewelry to aprons and notebooks. I was in Target looking for a new tank top when I came across the display and it tugged at my heartstrings. I figured if I was going to buy I tank top I might as well buy the one that would provide 18 meals for the hungry. I also bought a bag.
After sharing my passion for supporting the company with my husband, he also bought a couple of t-shirts and we were pretty excited to find more things that we could buy as well that weren't clothes. I collect decks of cards and was even able to score some Feed cards!
I'm not encouraging you to spend money you wouldn't on this project. But if you are in the market for a new travel bag or apron or some cook wear, check it out! You might as well support a project that is helping to give back to those in need. To date, FEED projects have provided over 60 million meals to those who would otherwise go hungry.
For more information on FEED click here.