“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

 -Anne Frank

 

 

Twenty pairs of envious eyes were watching me as I made my way across the room to the table set with china dishes, silverware, glasses for water and cups for coffee. The other twenty people in the room were fated to sit on the floor and eat cups of rice and beans while I and two others, randomly chosen, were to eat platefuls of pork roast, glazed carrots, fruit, stuffing, and our choice of tea or coffee. As I was sitting there, looking down at my friends on the floor, knowing that I was at this table through nothing of my own doing, I felt ashamed.

I was attending a Hunger Banquet, hosted by my Alma Mater, Cottey College. During my excursion this last weekend to Cottey, one of my best friends, Cassie, had mentioned that she would be giving a speech at this event, and casually asked if I would be interested in coming.

Although I have not had much experience with poverty or true hunger, having lived all of my life in prosperous Midwestern areas, I always considered myself to be fairly aware of the problem of poverty, and I prided myself on my idea that I had an understanding of how much we, as Americans have in comparison to much of the world. I thought I knew how bad poverty could be, but until this weekend, I had no idea.

When I arrived at the banquet on Sunday evening, I chatted with some old friends, paying little attention to my funny observation that there was only one table set up in the room but there were around 25 attendees. Later on, as several presentations were given about poverty and hunger, I continued to wonder what we were all going to do for dinner. After learning about a mission in Guatemala, some facts about worldwide poverty, and almost crying from pictures of emaciated infants and children, I began to suspect that I would be in for more than I had bargained for. 

Halfway through the event, the leader explained that, although there were 25 of us, only a privileged few, selected through a drawing, would be able to sit and eat a full dinner at the table I had noticed earlier while the rest of us would either eat a cup of rice and beans, or a cup of rice only. Once I realized that I had been selected to eat at the table, I didn’t want to go.

I cannot begin to relate the feelings I experienced while sitting at that table with two others, representing the 15% of the world that has enough to eat. When I understood what exactly 15% meant, how small it really was, and that there are over 80% of people in the world who are hungry – either because they only have a little food, or because they have nothing – I wanted to walk out of that room and never think about poverty again, never remember that my friends were sitting on the floor while I was sitting at the table. I was further devastated when I learned that approximately one person dies of hunger every 3.5 seconds. Yet this complete shock, this shameful devastation has actually encouraged me. Because now I know that I must make a difference, and now that I know I need to, I know I can. Thank you, Cassie, for helping me gain my sight.

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