Somewhere close to my cozy home, a child is hungry. As my husband and I plan our Thanksgiving Day—we are without family for the first time in many years—a mother nearby tries to stretch her income through the end of the month and still give the kids at least a small treat for this day of thanksgiving.
In a special report on hungry kids in Iowa, The Des Moines Register reported that 15 percent of the children in this food-producing state lived in poverty and hunger in 2010. Citing statistics from Feeding America, the paper noted that, “At least once during the year, about one out of five Iowa children doesn’t know where his or her next meal will come from.”
One out of five children are uncertain of their next meal in this state with farms and silos full of food, with an economy healthier than that of most other states. One out of five. That statistic just throws me, and I can’t forget the images of the beautiful children who are hungry. I grew up without much money, but I have never, ever in my life, faced real hunger.
So, this year instead of shopping for our turkey and dressing and cranberries and pies and then gorging ourselves and regretting it later, we’re filling our shopping cart with canned tuna and chicken, soups, oatmeal, cereal, boxed milk, peanut butter, and crackers, plus personal items like toilet paper and toothpaste. And we’re taking it to the Food Bank of Iowa.
Our own Thanksgiving will be a simple meal at home and then a long walk in the woods. And doesn’t that sound lovely? Lucky, lucky us.
I need this reminder because, like many Americans, I stew ridiculously about what I don’t have, what I think I need, what I know I want. Our stove and refrigerator are living way beyond their expected lifetimes. Our carpet needs to be replaced. Our countertops are Formica, for heavens sake. Oh, what would the Property Brothers say about our house? Not a lick of granite in it.
So I stew and stew and stew. I want, I want, I want.
And then I remember the hungry kids and give myself a metaphorical whap in the face. Our biggest worry is what we are going to eat—not if. And our stove and refrigerator sill work and we use them daily to make blessedly wonderful meals. I never have to worry if we can pay the utilities or get the roof fixed if it needs it.
And I have healthcare. If I need to go to the doctor, I go.
Our few boxes of food will not solve the problem of hungry Iowa children, but it will make at least a small dent. And it is money better spent than on our own excesses. Through the process I have gained something incredibly important to me—a perspective that helps me curb my advertising-and-Facebook-and HGTV-driven desires to do and have and consume it all.
I am lucky. I have to work hard to remember that., but I am much saner for doing it. Paying it forward works both ways.