Tuesday, March 6, 2012

gut pains: justice conference 2012

My close friend from my college days was a non-traditional student who came back to school when her girls were teenagers. She worked, she went to class, she raised her daughters, she cooked dinner for her husband, and took her poodles for long walks. And if that wasn’t enough, she was also the editor of the school newspaper.

Our friendship didn’t happen instantly. I remember the first class we took together. I was 20, and she sat on the other side of the room and always got the answers right. I didn’t have near as many responsibilities as she did, and still she had better grades. Being in the same class hit a competitive nerve. As much as she challenged me, she also inspired me. Gradually, we got to know each other and she opened my eyes to issues that at 20 and 22, I wasn’t even considering. Issues of child abuse and neglect and food insecurity.

Food was a big thing for her. She was always feeding people. She worried that I didn’t eat proper meals and skipped breakfast too often. She brought nutrition bars that I didn’t like but tried to eat anyway. She talked of swapping eggplants over fence lines with neighbors. She passed along recipes for granola and broccoli casserole. And on our walks, she’d point out where she’d plant a community garden if she owned the land and could.  

As I sat at the Justice Conference the other week and listened to Max Finberg the director for the USDA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships talk about the hunger issues students in America face, I thought about my friend and her passion for the hungry.

According to the USDA millions of American households face food insecurity each year. And children who receive free or reduced lunch during the school year, often go hungry on weekends and school vacations. Have you walked into a grocery store lately and noticed all the choices? Not only can we in America choose to buy apples, we get our choice of a dozen varieties.  Not to mention organic. Or maybe you’ve noticed your grocery budget has increased. Have you thought how the rise in prices have affected those already struggling to make ends meet?

At the Justice Conference, Walter Brueggemann said that the Greek for the word “compassion” indicates an emotional upheaval in the gut—to get upset. Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief, said that seeing injustice in the world should “call us to a collective scream.” And when your passion is awakened, Bauman said, “Don’t be a slacktivist.” Get deep into it. Choose one thing and do it.

Rick McKinley, pastor of Imago Dei Community in Portland, also spoke at the conference, and said that it is up to each one of us to cry out against the injustice in our own communities.

My friend has a passion for the hungry. She concerns herself with those whose gut pain comes from going to bed without dinner.  Where is your passion? What are you going to do to about it? 


  1. There is a program in my town run by a group of women who fill the backpacks of schoolchildren in the lower income areas with food for the weekend. I think it's one of the best programs in the city.

  2. I remember hearing about that program when I worked at the newspaper. I think it was just getting off the ground. I thought then that it was a wonderful idea. Glad to hear it's still providing food for the children.