The following talk was delivered on the First Sunday of Lent by Parishioner and Parish Advisory Council Chair, Mr. Mike Bruno.
Our parish is one of the biggest supporters of the Office of Concern so as we begin Lent, let’s take a look at the problem of food insecurity.
Anne Frank once said “Hunger is not a problem; it is an obscenity. How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world”.
Hunger has many impacts:
- The obvious one is malnutrition. It leaves people at greater risk for illness because it weakens the immune system.
- Poor nutrition during the first three years of a child’s life can lead to lasting depression and deficits in cognitive, social, and emotional development.
- Food insecurity in school-aged children and young adults reduces their ability to stay focused and learn properly.
- Seniors facing hunger are at an increased risk of chronic health conditions like diabetes, heart attacks & depression. Health conditions like diabetes are worsened dramatically by undernourishment or poor diets.
It’s not just about being hungry; it’s about the person’s total well being and their basic human dignity.
Let’s dispel some of the myths surrounding people in need:
Some people say “There’s poor people in big cities, but the problem is not really prevalent in our area”.
Bergen County has a population of approximately 940,000 people. A recent study found that more than 63,000 of people in our county live below the poverty level! Thousands more hover just above it and ALL of them struggle with food insecurity. The problem IS prevalent right here where we live.
Others say “Those people are just lazy and don’t want to work”.
First of all, they are not THOSE PEOPLE…they are US. Most of us in this church today are just one major illness, one job downsizing or one unanticipated traumatic event away from being on a food line. Statistically, some of our parishioners are struggling with food insecurity right now.
Many of the clients we see work hard but are under-employed & overwhelmed with bills they can’t pay. Some are single mothers who receive little or no child support & they can’t afford the child care needed so they CAN work.
We serve a great number of elderly people whose Social Security or meager pensions are not enough to cover their bills or meet rising health care costs. What are THEY supposed to do?
Then there are the clients who are disabled, or suffer from mental health issues or serious medical problems that prevent them from working at all.
Many poor people are too proud to seek the assistance they need which is why hunger is often referred to as a hidden problem
IMAGINE that you have to decide whether to pay your rent or buy food for your family this month.
IMAGINE wading through piles of mounting bills you can’t pay and dealing with utility shut-offs or threats of eviction or foreclosure on a daily basis.
IMAGINE being gravely ill but unable to go to a doctor or hospital because you can’t pay.
IMAGINE not being able to buy soap, toothpaste, baby diapers or even toilet paper when your money runs out each month. All nightmare scenarios, right?
Well this is EVERYDAY life for many of the people we see at the food pantries.
BUT… when I ask our pantry clients how they’re doing each day, the majority respond: “I’m blessed”. BLESSED! I wonder if our own faith would be as strong under those conditions…
So what can we do locally during this season of Lent?
In addition to giving something up, consider giving of yourself to help someone in need. As Mother Teresa said “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one”.
You can continue to support of the Office of Concern & help them do a great many things to assist our struggling neighbors.
You can volunteer your own time or share more of your resources with them. Make a monetary donation of any size along with your next food donation.
If you or someone you know speaks Spanish, consider joining our 2019 Medical Mission to Peru – we are in desperate need of more translators! OCTOBER 27 – NOVEMBER 2nd
You can pledge to cook, shop or volunteer to serve at Mt. Carmel’s walk-in dinners which are in the bulletin throughout the year (the next one is April 16th – contact Elliot if you wish to help).
You can also do something right where you live… visit a neighbor with a meal who is shut-in, shop for an elderly person you know. Don’t ASK if you can help them… just DO IT!
Throughout Lent, keep in mind just how blessed each and every one of us really are and make some small effort to share those blessings with someone less fortunate.
Following the teachings of Christ often requires actual sacrifice!
I’ll leave you with a thought that I have posted in my office at the food pantry:
“Sometimes I want to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice when He could do something about it … but I’m afraid He’ll ask ME the same question”.
May we view our Lenten journey as a real opportunity to give of ourselves to help others, just as Jesus did.
Thank you for your time and God bless you.