“How Can I Eat on a Dollar a Day?”

This morning, I sat down with a man I’ve come to know well.  He was sitting on bench in the shade of a tree at St. Martin’s–the day shelter where I spend my days.  Resting up for his walk to the bus stop.  He was shaking badly.  He said, “Sometimes my blood pressure pills just don’t work like they should.” I tried to talk him into heading over to Health Care for the Homeless.  No dice.  He had a plan for the day.  A part of the larger plan he’s had since I first met him.  A step he needed to take today to have things ready when his fiance gets out of jail.We continued to talk about apartments, motels–places where they could start their life together.  I broached the subject of money–what he had, what he needed, what he could do with what he had.  It was then that he told me his food stamps allowance had been cut.  He now gets $31 on his EBT card each month.  “$31 dollars–how can I eat on a dollar a day?” he asked me.

The only way my friend and hundreds like him can get enough to eat is through places like St. Martin’s Hospitality Center and food pantries like Casa San Miguel.  Food insecurity is not an abstract concept to people like the man sharing a place in the shade with me.  He is one of over fifty million Americans who struggle to find enough to eat each day.  He is one of thousands of New Mexicans who depend on shelters and food banks to get enough to eat.  For my friend, getting enough to eat means getting the energy to hold on until he and his fiance can get together.  That’s powerful incentive.

What’s the incentive for people like me–abundantly housed and fed–to share in my friend’s struggle?  Maybe it’s friendship–the friendship we share with one another and with God.  But friendship, like food insecurity is not an abstract concept.  Friends know each other.  Friends spend time with each other.  Friends are not indifferent to one another’s need.

I used to think that friendship with God came about as a result of time spent with God in prayer.  Now I’m beginning to wonder, “Is prayer enough?”  Now I’m beginning to think that to be friends–with God or with anyone else–means spending time with your friends and your friends’ friends.  How can I be a friend of God if I’m not a friend of those God loves.

Not long ago, I heard a group of school kids sing the song, “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”  In their squeaky little-kid voices they sang, “There ain’t no mountain high enough, ain’t no valley low enough to keep me from loving you.”   They sang with gusto.  And they sang from a place deep inside their experience with one another.  There was no mountain high enough to keep them from loving one another.

And there’s no mountain high enough to keep my friend from loving that woman who will be released from prison in a few months.

What will it take to scale the mountains of hunger in America?

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