Prisoners To Hunger

Posted: April 3, 2008 in Compassion, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Hunger, Misconceptions, Morality, Poverty

Two things I witnessed today have me thinking.

Although they occurred hours apart, they were both about the same thing: hunger.

The first occurred this morning when I stepped out for my morning cup of hot chocolate.

I saw a homeless man who was digging through a trash can. At first, I thought that he was looking for aluminum cans and plastic bottles to recycle. But as I neared, I saw him pull a bag from the trash can and look inside. Finding nothing in the bag he put in back into the trash and pulled out another bag. This time, after looking inside, he reached in a pulled out a half eaten candy bar.  

I couldn’t stand what I was seeing so I walked up to him and asked if he would like me to buy him something to eat. At first it seemed as though he didn’t understand what I was asking, and then I noticed he was trying to avoid making eye contact with me. He kept looking at the half eaten candy bar in his hand. Then it hit me – he was embarrassed at having had someone seen him digging in the trash to find something to eat.

I did my best to play it off. I told him that I was on my way into the convenience store to get myself a cup of hot chocolate, and although I didn’t have a lot of money on me, I’d be happy to buy him a cup of coffee if he’d like. Then, before he could reply I held open the door for him to go in.

While we were at the register I pretended suddenly finding out that I had more money with me than I originally thought. I said something about being a little bit hungry and that I was going to buy myself something to eat. I paid the cashier and we stepped outside.

This gentleman mumbled a thank you and, almost shyly, started to walk away. Before he did, though, I told him to throw the candy bar away. I gave him the food I had bought and the change I’d received from the cashier. It wasn’t much – a dollar and change.

About an hour ago, I needed a break, so I stepped out for a breath of fresh air and a cup of coffee.

On my way back, I saw another homeless gentleman. He was carrying a small bag from a fast food restaurant in one hand, and in the other hand he had, what I’m guessing, was a part of his meal for the evening.

At least he didn’t have to dig through the trash to find something to eat.

It isn’t unusual to see a television commercial that asks us to make donations to help feed the hungry of the world. Even movie and film celebrities get on the band wagon as spokespersons for these agencies. They show us pictures of someone who is hungry in some remote "third world country" – and they are invariably pictures of children.

It seems strange to me that we will respond to these commercials and make our donations, yet we seem to forget that there are people in our own nation who are living in "third world conditions" who also are hungry.

We tend to believe that because we have homeless shelters and other homeless support service agencies, the needs of our nation’s homeless are being adequately taken care of. Unfortunately, what we believe is far from the actual truth.

Consider this statement from the article, "Hunger and Poverty in the United States" on the RESULTS website,

"It is ironic that as the world’s wealthiest nation, hunger and poverty in the United States still persist. Evidence shows that millions of families and children live in poverty and experience hunger."

I have no problem with us wanting to reach out a helping hand to those in need – no matter where in the world they may happen to be. I do however have a problem with our ignoring the needs of our fellow citizens simply because they happen to be homeless. That smacks of hypocrisy.

What is worse though is that in many cities across this nation, there are local governments that are imposing restrictions on organizations that are trying to feed the homeless. These restrictions are generally in response to the complaints of "concerned citizens" who don’t want the homeless in their neighborhoods or in public parks near their homes.

Adlai E Stevenson, who served as Illinois Governor in the late 1940’s and who served as an Ambassador to the United Nations in the early 1960’s said,

"A hungry man is not a free man."

What does the Pledge of Allegiance say?

"… with Liberty and Justice for all."

Considering how many folks in our communities are prisoners to hunger, "… Liberty and Justice for all" doesn’t seem to be a reality quite yet.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    Thank you for pointing out that we do indeed have those who are hungry right here in our own back yards. Homeless folks are just one of the populations who face this problem… we have hunger among our elderly and other poor also. There really is no excuse for any of our citizens to go hungry in our country.

    By contributing to food banks in our community we can help many who might otherwise face hunger… and we can always use you as a role model to offer a helping hand to those who otherwise face hunger on a daily basis.

  2. it is sad to see someone who is hungry scrounging through a dumpster to find something to nourish themselves.

    but there are many other reasons for someone to dumpster dive.
    i recently interviewed a homeless street youth in seattle who is
    known here as the ‘king of dumpster-diving’. i was surprised to
    learn that dumpster-diving is also a form of ‘currency’ out on
    the streets.

    you can read the interview here if you wish:

    as usual, you did the right thing. thank you for sharing
    and inspiring others.


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