On an average Saturday morning you’ll find me creating a tantalizing weekend breakfast, green coffee cup in hand and my current reading material lying open on the kitchen table. My sister and I will slowly wake up, catch up on the week’s events and plan our day—simple, normal and relatively average.
One recent Saturday, however, a couple girlfriends and I decided to do something different. Forget sleeping in and our nonchalant weekend wake-up—we wanted to see a different part of our city. And not only see it, be apart of it. Change it. Affect it.
Potter’s Hands Ministries, located in the heart of downtown Red Deer, serves breakfast to approximately 150-200 people every Saturday morning. They count on faith and the stirring in people’s hearts to get volunteers out to serve. And every time the doors open, there is just enough help. We discovered that approximate 90 percent of those served at Potter’s Hands are homeless or live in very low-income housing.
After helping with food prep, serving, smiling and a lot of observing, 11 a.m. came, and it was time for clean-up. Bring out the broom and mop, time to get ready for Sunday church. The echoes of “thank you ladies” or “see you at church tomorrow” rang through the building and my mind as I pushed the dirt into a nice neat pile.
Pastor Stan turns to me and says, “Thank you ladies for staying and helping clean up. Most people just serve and leave. This is the real unsung work.”
What caused us to stay until the end? Seeing a need and not wanting to leave until our part was done? Sure. Knowing the impending guilt that would come should we leave early? Absolutely. Wanting to experience the whole of what it takes to feed the homeless in our community? Exactly.
Lately my sleep has been disturbed by the thoughts of not only humans in our community going without, but the world going without. I toss and turn, leak some tears and wake up in the morning with an undeniable stinging in my heart that the way I am living my life must change if I am to affect change. I am becoming more and more thankful for the disturbed sleep.
Poverty is defined as the state of being without enough food or money; lack of. Did you catch that? Without enough. Have I ever really experienced “without enough.” The fact that I have an education, stable family upbringing, a church family and great job likely suggests a strong “no”.
But just because poverty has never personally knocked on my door, does not mean I am not to affect it—play a part in eradicating it completely from our planet.
Allow me to spout some stats that will hopefully get the wheels of your mind turning (www.globalissues.org):
Half the world, nearly 3 billion people, lives on less than $2 a day. In 1999, when the whole world was worrying about Y2K and the end of this world as we knew it, nearly one billion people were still unable to read a book or sign their names.
One billion children live in poverty (that’s 1-in-2 children in the world). Let’s put that into perspective for a moment. Imagine the whole country of India (2001) is made up entirely of children, and all of them are living in poverty —or “lack of enough.”
There are 640 million people living without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water and 270 million have no access to health services. In 2003, 10.6 million children died before they reached the age of 5—whether it was lack of food, water or AIDS. That works out to roughly 29,000 children per day.
When I hear about innocent kids who are dying simply because they don’t have enough food or medicine to effectively treat their aids or condition, it gets my goat. They didn’t ask to be born in a third-world country anymore than a 4-year-old suburban girl was born into “enough”. It’s an unsung, far-off cry from what our normal world is.
I remember as a child visiting all my great-aunts’ houses who insisted to feed us when we came to call. Their curly grey hair, crocheted pink slippers and stained apron couldn’t fool you for what stubbornness really lied behind the suit. We could always count on a full meal or cookies and milk.
Now as an adult, I have discovered this love to feed people in my home—and yes, with a bit of genetic stubbornness. And now I find myself directly trying to get involved in feeding the world. Call it coincidence, but I know that the way we are brought up directly affects the way we live out our lives as adults. Surrounded by family wanting to feed me, I now know my life must feed those who haven’t enough. It is someone’s reality, though it may not be mine. It is the passion to continue the unsung work of a regular human being.
For any of you that have seen the movie Hotel Rwanda, you’ll know that there are places out there that are just not like Western countries. The journalist, played by Joaquin Phoenix, states in this movie when urged to call on North America, “They’ll see it, say that’s too bad, and go back to eating their TV dinners.” I do not want to be guilty of ignoring the world’s needs when they call for us.
I understand that not everyone has the ability to travel overseas to bring food to the hungry or have a first-hand look at what is really going on in the world. But anyone can sponsor a child. Someone can write to bring awareness to the uneducated. Anyone can discover their strength and find something to contribute. Every life can literally make a world of difference. And what matters is that we try.
On any given day, you can Google “poverty” and you’ll find countless ways to make a difference. If we allow a lack of knowledge of these issues to continue, we will have only ourselves to blame for the state of our world in ten years.
The words of the Potter’s Hands Pastor still permeate my thoughts—this is the unsung work. I know with all my heart that every life can make a difference. The unsung work of each person is what brings a real song to those in need—to the untouchables. The unheard. The unloved. The unborn. Unnoticed. Unwanted. Your unsung work will change this world.