And as an American growing up in the middle class I’ve never known hunger. Just the opposite. I may complain about the cost of groceries, they may take a chunk out of my budget, but there’s always so damn much food around me all the time I feel like a royal glutton. Not because I overeat, sometimes I do, but because I have access to so much of it.
There’ve been times when I had to eat cheaply, or ration food, but regardless, I always knew I could come up with enough money in short order to eat like there’s no tomorrow.
I read this quote the other day from Independent Senator Bernie Sanders: “There are 492 billionaires in this country and 16 million kids living in poverty.”
Every time I read something like that I get angry, and it puzzles me.
Not because people are wealthy. Wealth is fine, thank God for wealth. But how can there be so much wealth juxtaposed with so many who go to sleep hungry, who are malnourished. What’s wrong with the human race that we can’t solve this simple problem? Not just in America, but everywhere.
Most Americans are overweight. Whatever we don’t have enough of generally, it isn’t food. Go to the Mall and you’ll see whole hordes of obese people waddling in and out of stores, sitting in food marts stuffing themselves with cheese fries. We are primarily a gorged society, while whole families among us scrounge for bread crumbs.
There’re hundreds of charities of course, soup kitchens, food banks, can good drives, thousands of people in outreach programs, churches trying to do what they can for the poor, but there are always so many children just in America going to sleep hungry, as people drive around in gold-plated Bentley’s and attend fund-raising parties at a thousand dollars a plate.
Do I have the answer? Give what you can to charities that feed the poor, of course — but no, I don’t know beyond that. It seems there’s never enough. If I stop eating whole rotisserie chickens for dinner and donate half of the cost of them to Feed The Hungry, maybe that will do it, multiplied by millions of people doing the same.
But in truth, we who are rolling in food, whose cupboards and refrigerators are overflowing with steaks and pork loins and ice cream and pies, don’t even inhabit the same world as the hungry. We’ve always known how to eat all we want and we leave it to them to figure it out for themselves.
I don’t know how many times I’ve left a restaurant so stuffed I could’ve fed a family of four with what I’d eaten, and thought, why did I do that, and why isn’t there enough food for everybody else? Oh yeah, because I just ate it all.
Of course this can get into political things, and we can blame the poor for being so inept or lazy or stupid, but that still doesn’t justify children going to sleep hungry.
Children don’t deserve what they get half the time. Children don’t have control over their lives, their parent’s misfortunes or lack of survival skills. Children are at the mercy of the world, and “we are the world,” as the sappy song from the 80’s went. But we are.
So what is the answer? Thank God there are plenty of people on this earth who care about this. Who are also trying to bring clean water to places where people are drinking from swamps and mud puddles, digging wells for destitute African villages.
When Warren Buffett joined the Bill And Linda Gates Foundation, giving a billion of his own dollars with theirs and other billionaires in an effort to solve world hunger, disease, healthcare issues, he approached other billionaires and asked them to do the same. “I was trying to teach them how to live on a billion dollars,” he laughed, but was snubbed by most of them. “Most of what you can do with five billion dollars you can do with one billion,” he said.
Personally, no matter how much wealth I had, I couldn’t buy my wife hundreds of thousands of dollars in diamonds if I knew one kid in Appalachia was going to sleep without a bowl of soup or something in his stomach. I couldn’t live with myself. I have a hard enough time justifying being able to eat anything I want as it is at times, knowing other people are hungry. Though I’m deeply thankful. But that’s just me. If there’s something wrong with me, I hope I never fix it.
Is it our problem or do we just go to the store, fill up our trunk with every kind of delicacy known to man, have a nice feast with wine, and watch tv where there is luscious footage of mounds of steaming beautiful food, and say, we’ll have to eat there tomorrow.
We should be able to treat ourselves in this world, because we’ve created the means to do so. There’s plenty for us, as long as there’s enough for those who are starving also. We have to solve that problem on a grand scale, or what is the human race made of? Who are we? How can we pride ourselves on our technology, on our remarkable achievements, if we can’t even see that every child that comes into the world goes to sleep at night with enough food in his stomach?
This isn’t making everyone equal. Far from it.
This is way beyond taking people’s hard earned wages and giving them to the worthless, indolent, unambitious. This is just feeding children.
Oh, we can blame their parents, and talk about “socialism,” and say, too bad losers! But that just won’t cut it in the big wide scheme of things. That’s just a big cop out, and if we do that, then one day, under circumstances we can’t foresee or imagine, we may become those hungry people if all of this goes to hell in a hand basket. We are all connected on this planet, and if we ignore those connections, it will come back to haunt us.
Ron Clinton Smith is a film actor and writer of stories, songs, poetry, screenplays, and the novel Creature Storms.