National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Month
If the only prayer you say in your life is “thank you,” that would suffice.
~ Meister Eckhart
It was the season of Thanksgiving 2013. Leaving the office one late afternoon, I met a woman, who was resting with her adult-size french poodle on the pavement of a downtown metro station. She asked for currency, but I proceeded to walk toward the escalators on my way home after an exhausting day of work. Before I could take another step, I consciously decided to turn around and acknowledge her. She smiled, and began to tell me of her past and how she once served as an English teacher. She shared with me her hopes of returning to that life, as a teacher, as well as her goals for moving forward with the funds she’d collected.
I don’t always see shimmering stars in people’s eyes, but that day, through all of the disarticulation of her predicament, I saw them crystal-clear. I saw purpose. I saw promise. I saw strength. I reached into my wallet and gave her twenty dollars of the paycheck I’d received earlier that afternoon. I reminded myself that I was going to a place I could call home and a place where I could control the thermostat to suit my level of comfort. She had no thermostat she could control. I considered, that after work, I was going to cook a meal for my family – a recipe that had been thought out over the lunch I enjoyed while sitting behind a desk I could call a job. She didn’t own a stove nor a desk to sit at. And though my current residence was much smaller than the single-family home I downsized from, still, I was more fortunate. I had a collection of coats to choose from and a paycheck that would be a little less after addressing the monthly bills. Nonetheless, I was able to eat a meal of choice.
I paused for a moment of appreciation for the little things often forgotten: stability, liberty, grace, employment and a daily peace of mind. I was grateful for meeting that woman and for her reminding me of the small things that mattered, but often viewed as insignificant. As delicate as life is, it is troublesome to observe how we take so many things granted. Sacred friendships, sisterhood, clocks that keep time, clean running water, light switches, employment to complain about, a freshly brewed cup of coffee, the smell of a baby’s diaper – are all some of the little things that mean so much, but are often taken for granted.
Smell, sight, touch, and hearing are the senses that bind the fabric of our lives. Those things remind us to be more grateful, more hopeful, and more humble. Through the acknowledgement of these senses, we are reminded that we still have a lot to give – and receive from others.
To an individual who seeks shelter life can seem like a battlefield. Showing gratitude for life’s simple pleasures, somehow, lessens the struggle of any war. Through honoring the simplicity of thankfulness, daily, we can learn how essential gratitude is to our mental journey and overall well-being. Gratefulness allows us more space for contentment and less space for disenchantment. I learned that less was truly more.
The Law of Attraction is instrinsically linked to the Law of Gratitude. I give not because I am solicited but because I am attentive, philanthropic by nature, and motivated for change, thus allowing more space for positive returns. Whenever it is, whatever it is – I am always giving something: a compliment, a word of encouragement, a smile, a listening ear, volunteerism, shared resources, or money for a meal.
Gratitude modifies our daily attitude and heightens our overall quality of life. Appreciation is the perfect gift with the potential to last a lifetime. It provides immeasurable joy, self-esteem, and honor. It enhances the giver just as much as the receiver. Through challenge, triumph, loss, trial, or error, we learn to live our lives as if everything were a miracle, and we become more aware on a continuous basis of just how much we’ve been given. The practice of gratitude shifts our focus from what our life lacks – to the abundance that is already present.
Albeit, many of us give on multiple levels, hunger spans far beyond the reach of the woman I met, who is a day-to-day resident of that downtown city metro station. Hunger and homelessness are a universal dilemma of great concern. About 98% of hungry people live in developing countries. [CNN] According to the Oxford English Dictionary, hunger is a term best described as “the uneasy or painful, exhausted condition caused by want of food; a strong desire or craving.” Some statistics on hunger and homelessness are severely hard to swallow.
It is hard to fathom that we live in the world’s wealthiest nation, yet 14.5 percent of U.S. households – which is nearly 49 million Americans including 15.9 million children – struggle to put food on the table. [bread.org]. From 2010 to 2012, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimated that nearly 870 million people of the 7.1 billion people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment. There are 16 million people undernourished in developed countries alone. (FAO 2012) [worldhunger.org]
Each November is reserved as National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Organizations such as the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH), Bread for the World, Action Against Hunger/ACF International, Break Away, and Habitat for Humanity International, continue to create life-saving programs for situations of conflict, natural disaster, and chronic food insecurity across the world. Many of these advocacy groups utilize this period of the year to develop new and distinctive ways to promote policy agendas and reach more communities in view. There is so much we can do within the communities in which we live.
Time is not universal. It is relative. The world we live in today is full of little things that make big impacts. We are all a part of those little things. Your energy is powerful and your time, priceless. The necessity to save lives and restore communities is paramount. Through collective advocacy, empowerment, personal leadership, ownership and purpose, hopelessness can be transformed into hopefulness. I believe that ending world hunger can be done. Yes, it can.
As the festive season of Thanksgiving approaches, yet again, begin your season with creativity, consideration, and inspiration. Count your blessings and acknowledge everything you see, hear, tastes, and feel. Lend your time, attention, and resources to those less fortunate. Bringing the attention to the national disgrace of homelessness and hunger is something of which you can be proud, and you can always find something small for which to give thanks.
The light is in you.