This is the time of year when Thanksgiving and Christmas are present, and people have the opportunity to reach out and help those less fortunate. Often I ask myself why some are over-abundantly wealthy, while others, especially children, are starving on the streets, not knowing if they will ever receive food.
I developed a new perspective on the night of Nov. 21, as I attended the Oxfam banquet and learned that the division of classes around the world is completely unequal—and upsetting. Reality really hit me in the face.
Before entering the banquet room that night, I was required to pick a piece of paper out of a large basket. After obtaining a paper, I opened it and read that I was a high-income lady in society. I was led to a table with a white tablecloth adorned with bread, a salad and chocolate mousse dessert. I would also be receiving a hot plate of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables.
To be honest, I was relieved to be a high-class citizen, because I was extremely hungry and didn’t want to sit on the ground like those who were assigned to the poverty level class. They received rice, as I sat at my fancy table stuffing my face, and those in the middle class sat on chairs in a circle, munching on beans and rice.
As I was almost finishing my salad, I was served a steaming hot plate of protein goodness provided by a waiter. The other classes had to stand in line for their food, much like the line found at a soup kitchen.
I looked at my hot plate and glanced at the people sitting on the floor, then looked at my plate again. Not wanting to give up the delicious meatloaf, I picked up my plate anyway, grabbed the mousse and headed over to the lower class group on the floor. I found and gave two people my dinner and dessert.
My guilt got the better of me. The last thing I wanted to do was say goodbye to my meal, but I couldn’t stand sitting at my royal table loaded with food, while others were chowing down on bland rice. I wasn’t the only one. Almost everyone at the high-class tables shared their meal with the low and middle classes as well.
There was a presentation during the meal that caused me to stop and think about the issue at hand: hunger.
Compared to the rest of the world, the United States falls into what is considered a “high income” class. Americans are the ones sitting at the fancy tables with more than enough to eat. But even though this country is bountiful, hunger is still an issue among its people.
It is up to those who have plenty, to share their food with the hungry and, even better, to volunteer their time teaching important skills to those in poverty. The phrase, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” demonstrates the power of educating people about self-sufficiency.
Sometimes, the most important thing we can give the less fortunate is our knowledge. Self-sufficiency is by far a greater gift to give people than a can of beans.
As I sat at my table toward the end of the night, feeling hungry and tired, I realized that many people feel this way on a daily basis. Even though I was happy and excited to be in the high-class group at first, as the night progressed, I began to feel that pain of guilt at having so much while others had little, and the wealthy group became less enticing.
There is no need to feel guilt. Everyone deserves to be well fed and it’s up to those who do have plenty to share what they have with the poor. There is no need to have yachts, mansions, Porsches or airplanes while children around the world are dying from starvation.
Hunger doesn’t have to be an epidemic. Human beings have the power change others’ lives and give the world what it needs: a hot plate of food.