Yesterday was Blog Action Day, and the theme this year was poverty. Among the 12,836 participating blogs with an estimated 13,498,532 readers, my contribution, I was informed late yesterday, was missing something. “You said everyone else’s reaction but not mine,” said my wife. A brief discussion ensued in which I didn’t have a lot to say… but basically I figured since it was her story, I shouldn’t tell it without clearing it first. And now that she’s taken me to task, I will say — lest anyone think she was the only one unaffected by our tour — that it impacted her quite deeply as well. It was on her mind for several days as she recommended the tour to everyone we saw. When we discussed it yesterday, she reminded me that the experience was “life-changing.”
The truth is that I wasn’t the only one imagining scenarios involving volunteer work with MSF or an organization like them. Way back in the once-upon-a-time of our lives together, we imagined a plan of paying off student debts and keeping the first year or two of our marriage relatively free of external commitments and encumbrances so that after that time we would be free to go and work on OM ships together. It was a dream that never materialized for us, and it was strange to discover someone for whom it did. One never knows what’s around the next corner of life, but as a certain amount of age continues to grow on us, I begin to consider a course that I’ve seen others take — that of “retiring” to the “mission field.” To be clear, I don’t think it’s appropriate to forgo missional engagement while awaiting the day when one could actually get involved in mission. What I’m thinking of here is that season of life when some people choose to relax on their savings and enjoy leisure, while others simply choose to redirect their pursuits into other avenues and interests, typically with less concern for financial return on those pursuits. Following the tour, I picked up a brochure about volunteering with MSF, and the companion sheet specifically for nurses volunteering with MSF, as my wife is a nurse. I’ve still got it, and will probably hang onto it for a while, not really knowing what to do with it or when, if anything or ever. But the imagination alerts us, at times, to dreams and longings… even callings, at times. And who knows what’s around the next corner of life?
Interestingly enough on the heels of yesterday’s theme, today is (or was) World Food Day.
World Food Day was proclaimed in 1979 by the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It marks the date of the founding of FAO in 1945. The aim of the Day is to heighten public awareness of the world food problem and strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In 1980, the General Assembly endorsed observance of the Day in consideration of the fact that “food is a requisite for human survival and well-being and a fundamental human necessity” (resolution 35/70 of 5 December 1980). [source]
The story is told in pictures by The Guardian and in print by Oxfam in a report titled, “Challenging the Rules: Global Hunger and the Politics of Food.” And it begs the question, just how pathetic is it that food has become a political issue? And worse, that it’s a political issue that’s anything but front-and-center. In the recent Canadian election, the Make Poverty History group in Canada attempted to bring the issue into focus, though only some of the candidates responded. Lawn signs were distributed promoting a vote for candidates who wanted to make poverty history.
It seems an issue that just won’t go away. Extreme poverty is justice denied, and as I wrote yesterday, riffing on Bono, we need to go beyond charity in the pursuit of justice. When Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you,” I don’t think he intended it as a prescription. Why not receive it as a challenge? Surely we can do better than we have, particularly on the global scale. The poor “at home” we may remember at times like Christmas and Easter when giving and volunteerism at the local shelters and foodbanks goes up. And thankfully so, but when do we remember the poor who are not right beneath our noses? The ones around the globe who, oddly enough, are poor every day? And believe me, the words I write frustrate and convict me as much as anyone else.