We’d Never Do This In the Same Room

Last week a local university hosted a Hunger Banquet in association with Oxfam America, a nonprofit international development and relief organization with the mission of creating lasting solutions to global poverty, hunger and social injustice. Only a handful of those who attended came away well-fed. Most went home hungry and that’s exactly what the organizers wanted.

The dinner was designed to highlight the vast inequalities that exist around the globe in the distribution of food and wealth. Sixty people attended the banquet. Fifteen percent were given a three-course meal on a linen-covered table, complete with silverware and utensils. Twenty percent were given ‘middle income meals’ consisting of some beans, rice and a glass of water. Like their wealthier counterparts they had chairs, but no table. Most of those attending, sixty-five percent sat on the floor and were fed only some rice and water. They had to eat with their hands.

Think about that the next time you sit down to eat. The vast majority of us reading this blog are in that 15% that has way more than we need. And we probably spend more time frustrated by things we want rather than concerned over those who are starving to death or being slaughtered in tribal genocides. Especially for the U.S., where we are only 5% of the world’s population yet consume over 25% of the world’s resources.

When you wonder why people in impoverished countries overseas are angry at the U.S., this is much of the reason. How would you feel if you put your children to bed each night watching them suffer in malnutrition and disease if your neighbors were were feasting on steak and running around in their Hummers?

I don’t think such inequities exist in our world because the wealthy are so callous, but because we cannot maintain a grasp on the disparity of our world. It can only exist because we don’t eat every night in the same room and have no sense of the incredible abundance we have and the desperate need that exists elsewhere. And when we do, we don’t have the foggiest idea what to do about it.

But maybe this is something some of us can have some prayer and dialog about. I know my heart is increasingly touched by my awareness of my abundance in the face of the hunger and violence in the world. Undoubtedly it is a result of the fruit of the chaos of creation due to the sin and selfishness of humanity, but that we doesn’t mean we should blindly enjoy our own good fortune while ignoring the plight of brothers and sisters around the world.

And I’m talking way beyond charity here for the poor. I love this quote by Eduardo Galeano, a journalist from Uruguay:

“I don’t believe in charity. I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person and learns from the other. Most of us have a lot to learn from other people.â€

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16 Comments
  1. kent October 7, 2006 at 5:23 pm

    Wayne, I am so willing to have this conversation. I have been praying about it a lot. Interestingly enough I was sent an e-mail this week to see if I would host a ONE CHAMPAIGN MEETING in my home. This is the organization Bono set up to help address World Poverty. All they really want is names. They are not asking for our money. It is a way of showing our Elected Officials this issue is important to us so to keep the pressure on them to come through for the poorest folks in the world. They waste so much of our tax dollars on stupid things. I want to do all I can to pressure them to get serious about trying to address STUPID POVERTY. That is poverty that we can do something about if we are serious about it.

    http://www.one.org

  2. Kevin October 7, 2006 at 6:38 pm

    Kent, yes we waste a lot of our tax dollars, but I dare say the average American wastes as much if not more than the government.

    The difficulty is these are very complex problems. It’s not just about poverty and healthcare. There are corrupt governments, lack of education, no resources, worldview issues, etc.

    Personally, I wish it was as simple as giving Compassion International another $150 a month. It gets overwhelming and depressing when I realize that I can’t even make a modest impact on the problem. I try to take the save a starfish approach for my own mental health. http://www.rogerknapp.com/inspire/starfish.htm

  3. kent October 7, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    Kevin, from what I am reading it looks as if some of these groups have been pretty successful over the years in learning how to work in the areas where they have good leadership and avoid for now some of the areas where there is corript leaders. It seems the folks on the ground are very arware of alot of this stuff and are finding ways of helping the poeple in significant ways. The stuff I have read about Jubilee 2000 is simply amazing. Putting pressure on the politician to stay the course as far as debt relief for the poorest of nations is helping many of these countries in real practical ways. Thousands of children are going to school when before they were not. AIDS drugs are saving whole families. Working in the area of fair trade and fair living wages is the right thing to do, instead of our corporations exploiting them for larger profit margins.

    I don’t have the money to give to make any difference at all. I think people like Bono know this so they are trying to get us to use our voices to get at the World Leaders who have control of the money and the power to make these changes. I’m just exploring ideas as to what I might do. I’m just feeling like I want to try to do something. Not only in other countries but here also.

  4. kent October 7, 2006 at 8:23 pm

    Wayne, I am so willing to have this conversation. I have been praying about it a lot. Interestingly enough I was sent an e-mail this week to see if I would host a ONE CHAMPAIGN MEETING in my home. This is the organization Bono set up to help address World Poverty. All they really want is names. They are not asking for our money. It is a way of showing our Elected Officials this issue is important to us so to keep the pressure on them to come through for the poorest folks in the world. They waste so much of our tax dollars on stupid things. I want to do all I can to pressure them to get serious about trying to address STUPID POVERTY. That is poverty that we can do something about if we are serious about it.

    http://www.one.org

  5. Kevin October 7, 2006 at 9:38 pm

    Kent, yes we waste a lot of our tax dollars, but I dare say the average American wastes as much if not more than the government.

    The difficulty is these are very complex problems. It’s not just about poverty and healthcare. There are corrupt governments, lack of education, no resources, worldview issues, etc.

    Personally, I wish it was as simple as giving Compassion International another $150 a month. It gets overwhelming and depressing when I realize that I can’t even make a modest impact on the problem. I try to take the save a starfish approach for my own mental health. http://www.rogerknapp.com/inspire/starfish.htm

  6. kent October 7, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    Kevin, from what I am reading it looks as if some of these groups have been pretty successful over the years in learning how to work in the areas where they have good leadership and avoid for now some of the areas where there is corript leaders. It seems the folks on the ground are very arware of alot of this stuff and are finding ways of helping the poeple in significant ways. The stuff I have read about Jubilee 2000 is simply amazing. Putting pressure on the politician to stay the course as far as debt relief for the poorest of nations is helping many of these countries in real practical ways. Thousands of children are going to school when before they were not. AIDS drugs are saving whole families. Working in the area of fair trade and fair living wages is the right thing to do, instead of our corporations exploiting them for larger profit margins.

    I don’t have the money to give to make any difference at all. I think people like Bono know this so they are trying to get us to use our voices to get at the World Leaders who have control of the money and the power to make these changes. I’m just exploring ideas as to what I might do. I’m just feeling like I want to try to do something. Not only in other countries but here also.

  7. Kevin October 8, 2006 at 7:29 am

    For anyone interested in an educating read on this topic take a look at the most recent edition of Ronald Sider’s “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”.

  8. kent October 8, 2006 at 7:48 am

    Kevin, I will do just that. Thanks for the suggestion. I have been e-mailing my Congressmen this morning about this issue.

  9. Mark Reece October 8, 2006 at 8:54 am

    Without endorsing any of the websites listed at the end of the presentation, this is still a very good snapshot of the situation:
    http://www.miniature-earth.com/

    mark

  10. Kevin October 8, 2006 at 10:29 am

    For anyone interested in an educating read on this topic take a look at the most recent edition of Ronald Sider’s “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”.

  11. kent October 8, 2006 at 10:48 am

    Kevin, I will do just that. Thanks for the suggestion. I have been e-mailing my Congressmen this morning about this issue.

  12. Mark Reece October 8, 2006 at 11:54 am

    Without endorsing any of the websites listed at the end of the presentation, this is still a very good snapshot of the situation:
    http://www.miniature-earth.com/

    mark

  13. Johnny Brooks October 9, 2006 at 1:40 am

    Thanks Wayne for that article. I have been trying to find ways of describing what poverty is really like to people back in the U.S. and maybe this is the way.

  14. Johnny Brooks October 9, 2006 at 4:40 am

    Thanks Wayne for that article. I have been trying to find ways of describing what poverty is really like to people back in the U.S. and maybe this is the way.

  15. pablo alegre October 14, 2006 at 4:00 pm

    During the four years i lived in Mexico City I realized what the Bible plainly teaches that poverty is not the product of any of the reasons that most people think –including Sider’s Christian Marxism– Poverty is caused by worship. Who you worship rules your life and affects your life. Worshiping demons creates disparity. Worshiping Yahweh creates wealth.

  16. pablo alegre October 14, 2006 at 7:00 pm

    During the four years i lived in Mexico City I realized what the Bible plainly teaches that poverty is not the product of any of the reasons that most people think –including Sider’s Christian Marxism– Poverty is caused by worship. Who you worship rules your life and affects your life. Worshiping demons creates disparity. Worshiping Yahweh creates wealth.

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