How Rich We Are

The main work I do is humanitarian, helping feed elderly Holocaust survivors in Eastern Europe. The reason I do this work is because I wasn’t alive at the time of the Holocaust and there was nothing I could have done. But I am alive now; there is a need; and this I can do! When I look into their faces, I see the faces of Aunts and Uncles and cousins. I believe this may be our last chance to do something for these people who suffered and lost so much. I believe by reaching beyond ones self, and helping those in need, we expand our knowledge as well as our hearts, growing in compassion, and depth of character.

Two of our workers were inviting elderly people to a soup kitchen in one of the villages where we were starting to feed people. They visited one elderly woman and told her that she could come to the kitchen at 10:30-11:30 every morning. She thanked them and said she would be unable to come because her granddaughter lived with her, and she was in school at that time. Our workers said, “if your granddaughter is in school, then what would be the problem with you coming to the soup kitchen?” She said, “Well, my granddaughter has the shoes at that time.” She and her granddaughter had to share a pair of shoes. They were both not able to be out at the same time.

A short time later, the woman’s granddaughther returned from school, and she told her grandmother that she was hungry. She was told there was some bread in the kitchen. She asked her grandmother if she had some bread now, would there be anything left for them to eat tomorrow. It bothered me greatly that a girl couldn’t take a piece of bread without worrying that they would have nothing to eat the next day. We saw to it that they had shoes, coats, and food parcels.

In North America, we are so very rich. There isn’t a day that goes by that we go to sleep not knowing IF we will eat the next day, or the day after. We throw out enough food to feed an army, we give basketfuls of clothing to rummage or throw it in the garbage. Our children have food fights, and it seems like a joke. When we stop and give thanks for a meal, how thankful are we really? If not for the grace of God, we could be wondering if we would have another meal today or tomorrow.

We live in a society that turns a blind eye to the poor. We step over homeless people, and look at them like they are garbage because they are unclean, and in rags. They are people created in the image of God, not refuse. When we help them, we are honoring their creator.

My mind went back to my childhood, when my mother tried to get me to finish the food on my plate, telling me people were starving in Europe. I cavalierly told her to send it to them. She wasn’t wrong, but in a way, neither was I. We should send food to the starving people of Eastern Europe. Not our leftovers, but support soup kitchens, and provide food to the needy. Perhaps if we were more grateful for what we have, and decided do what we can to help others in their time of need, we would be more thankful for the many things we have. We spend so much time focusing on what we don’t have, a change of perspective could change the way we feel about what we do have.

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” – Hillel

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2 thoughts on “How Rich We Are

  1. This was a beautiful article you wrote. You have done so much for so many, I am so very proud to be your sister. You have said in so many ways, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”.. If I could go with you to Europe, I would… There has to be more some of us can do here at the home front…

  2. Very true words. i am the first to say that i should heed them.

    i grew up in germany, with my grandparents who lived through the Reich with all its horrors, surviving it – unlike other family members. they have always been very careful with food, not wasting a bit, just like my great-grandma. from them i learned not to waste food, to heat up leftovers or use them in a creative way to make something new. you ate the whole chicken? use the bones to cook soup. at the same time, now that there is enough food, certain behaviours did not changed, lives are marked forever. my grandpa says that if there really was HaShem, those things would not have happened, whilst at the same time accusing HaShem – but he says he’s atheist now.

    in my teens (14 years old) i spent a summer in Manila, Philippines, with the poorest of the poor – we were a group who brought medication and such there after the Pinatubo broke out. i remember the streets covered in ashes. what shocked were the people and children living on smoky mountain, but also their generosity at the same time. they had almost nothing – and would share it happily. here, we have so much, and either people don’t want to share, or are embarassed when you want to share, or they could have something for free.

    i don’t take those things for granted. when i spent a couple nights on the streets, i was grateful for the homeless shelter where i got a bed and a breakfast, for the old lady who bought me a coffee because i watched her luggage for two minutes at the station.

    i grew up with my grandparents because my mother was into drugs. when she was at a rehabilitation center, i moved back with her; i was 12 by then. at school, a girl made the remark that she couldn’t ever live there with “such people”: drug addicts, some had debts, maybe criminal records, prostitutes, alcoholics, punks… yet there, even though not everything was easy, i met some of the most sweet, gracious, friendly and open people i know.

    life is precious.

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