News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion Columns

September 23, 2012

MARK BENNETT: Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

People can’t fully comprehend the struggles of the hungry until they’ve gone without food

(Continued)

TERRE HAUTE —

Break chain of poverty

I have a much greater appreciation for the United Way and Catholic Charities and other organizations that fight this battle day in and day out.

By the time this article is read, my Hunger Challenge will be over, and I will once again have that freedom to choose my meals for the day without too much thought. Those fighting poverty will continue to live day to day wondering if their food will last the week. The kids will continue to struggle in school and sports because of the lack of energy and concentration due to hunger.

I appreciate the work ethic my parents instilled in me growing up and the hope that I could do better.  We have to continue building hope for these kids so that they can someday be the leaders of our community, but, most importantly, break this chain of poverty by creating more opportunities to those who want to do better. Thanks.

— Todd Pepperworth

Director of Operations

Hamilton Center Inc.

Impact at school

After living on ramen noodles and hot dogs, I feel so lethargic, and I sleep more than before the challenge but still am tired. So I have to say, I appreciate that I have the opportunity to eat a well-balanced and nutritious meal.

I can’t imagine going to school day in and day out feeling this way; no child should have to carry that.

— Chad Overton

Owner, Servpro

Offer help

I decided to take part in the Hunger Challenge when I listened to Claudia Tanoos share her and her husband Danny’s experience from last year. When she spoke at the United Way breakfast earlier this month, I knew it was something I needed to do. It had been quite a while since I’d truly been hungry or concerned about a grocery bill.

I’ve been sensitive to others’ hunger in our valley most of my life. My father was a wounded prisoner of war in WWII. As a prisoner, he knew hunger, well. He taught us to appreciate all that we had and to share generously with others. In the sixth grade, my class went to Chicago for the day and we had to take our lunch and dinner. A sack lunch was a new experience for me. My parents had packed half-a-dozen sandwiches with fruit, chips and a box of Hostess cupcakes. I was shocked when I opened it! However, my teacher, Mr. Lutz knew exactly what my parents’ intention had been. He quickly, and with much grace, tucked it around my hungry classmates’ plates. We didn’t have a free- or reduced-lunch program in the ’60s, and some had very little to bring.

As a newlywed, over 30 years ago my father in-law taught me how to cut up a whole chicken. I’d been cooking since I was 9 but only knew how to stuff a whole chicken with carrots and celery, and roast it in the oven. I’d learned how to prepare the “best” pieces for my families’ dinner plate, but now I needed to use all the others. As a young wife, nothing was wasted and we had soup for dinner every week. Now my children are grown, and I shop and cook only for myself. All my chicken has become “skinless, boneless white meat.”

As I stood looking at the beautiful selection of fall fruits available this week, I was reminded that many people do not get to buy choice, polished, individual apples. I was pleased my meager budget, just over $29 and change, did allow me to buy a 3-pound bag. Every apple in the sack was considerably smaller to those sold individually. I did find a special on fresh broccoli, but I couldn’t afford dark green leafy lettuces for my salads. Instead I bought a head of lettuce. I didn’t have enough money for salad dressing and tried to improvise with canned tomatoes with green chilies and a little sweetener. It was barely edible, but there was no “waste” allowed this week. I needed to eat what I did and didn’t like. There was no extra money to return to the store and try again.

I was supported by emails and blogs of others also doing the Hunger Challenge this week. I learned much about soup kitchens, mission offerings and Catholic Charities’ many programs. What a blessing it is to the needy in our community.

On Wednesday evening I had peanut butter and crackers, one of my very small apples and water. I enjoyed it as “fast food” because I didn’t have to do much prep. Crackers and peanut butter are staples in the Weekend Back Pack program. This program — not funded with government money but by our community — sends a small pack of food home with students who request it each Friday. My small apple was just about the size of a fruit cup that would also go home. It was enough for me but a teenager would be hard pressed to be satisfied.

The last several years, I have counted “points,” grams, calories and nutritional values of the food I’ve eaten but rarely the cost. When I shop, I have the luxury of going to several markets and choosing from the best fruits and vegetables offered. I am still careful to buy “in season” but this week my “season” was poverty. Food, in its purest form, is technically food for the body. I would say my usual “fuel” expenditures would keep me out of the “premium” bracket most weeks, but put me somewhere above “economy.” I’ve never really been extravagant except during the holidays. However, I now realize how pampered I’ve become. I shop without a fear of not having enough money at the register. This week I didn’t really have money for “shopping.” I was challenged to even buy “economy fuel” and blessed that I didn’t end up “walking!” As the mail arrived this week, I realized my monthly expenditures for “healthy eating” and lifestyle magazines could buy a week’s worth of HC food.

The Lord’s Word says, “The poor will always be with us.” Perhaps it is to keep those of us who are blessed humble. When I turn my eyes away from the needs of the poor, I’m failing to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” My neighbors and many students I see each day are hungry. I can choose to selfishly reach for the single perfect apple next week when I shop. Or, I can reach down to those who need hope and contribute the time and money He’s given me to help them. I choose to give, more. After all, you can’t out give the Giver.

— Susan Eisman

Media Specialist

Terre Haute North Vigo High School

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