Friday, December 7, 2012


When I go to the local building supply store I see them – Men standing on the edge of the parking lot hoping for an opportunity for a day’s work- hoping that someone will  hire them to haul broken cement, or clean trash, or dig a drainage ditch.  For this they will receive the minimum wage of $8 an hour for a few hours work.  Only a few will actually get hired on a typical day.  To be unemployed, poor, and desperate makes a person invisible to the rest of us.
Dorthea Lange photo- Migrant Mother
 I feel conflicted when I see men stand at stop signs with a scrap of cardboard saying ; ‘Vet – I am hungry – I need your help”... I am troubled by reports that for many this is a lucrative scam.  But I know that there are many hungry people desperate for the next meal.  I hate to be burned by a con artist... so instead we support our local  homeless centers available to people like this...but sometimes I give money anyway...

Homeless vet asking for help
It is evidently clear that its not just lazy people who end up needing help.  Consider the results of the recession, veterans of our national wars, and the epidemic of foreclosures in recent years. What does a person do when he or she loses their safety net, when they are confronted with PTSD,  when they lose their job or their home?  Many people live one pay check away from disaster.  If you know one person in this situation - you understand the crisis.

Man sleeping on the street in San Francisco - He sleeps on a busy street because it is safer than a quiet location...
It is very troubling to look into the face of hunger.   You can't miss to on the streets in Mexico, in Tanzania, and in Turkey...  The poor can truly starve to death and no one helps. ( In Mexico I make it a point to carry 2 peso coins in my pocket which I give to hungry beggers – this is enough to buy about an inch thick stack of tortillas... but this is only a bandaid for one day.)  Hunger is also real and before our eyes here.  When I am in our  SF  Bay Area cities it is a common sight to see men and women going through the trash after lunch to find bits of food that people left behind in their lunch sacks.  it is shocking but Americans waste 40% of all the food produced in this country and still people go hungry.  Read the CNN report:

Most of us would help a hungry person if it was someone we know. But in many cases we dont even see  the “invisible ones”.  it is easier to not see them - to tune them out and make them disappear from our awareness.

A.     Open your eyes to see “the invisble ones” in our midst.  it can be troubling but its the first step...
B.     Find out what they need and find a way to help... strive to do more than band aid help.
Vet sign asking for help
Find an agency that addresses the need: 
1.     The Christmas season is often the time when people feel drawn to give money for special gifts for food or gifts for children... and this is commendable – but what about the other 364 days of the year...
2.     Learn about your local support groups that are active all year long. Give freely to the local homeless center where food and support is available.  Support legislation that benefits homeless vets and all desperate Americans.  Volunteer to give time - meet the “invisible ones” face to face. They are surprisingly just like us.
3.     Hunger knows no national boundaries – We are one human family: One of my favorite international support groups is Heifer Project International:
Squatter home in a style found in many countries

A true Heifer Project story: Adilah, in the hill country of Tanzania,  took us down the trail behind her house to a shelter made of sticks and cane.  Inside she pointed to her pig and the 8 babies.  The pigsty smelled as all pigstys – but to Adilah this pig represented security and the opportunity to feed her family and to send her 2 children to school.  Everything had been different until last year when her husband died of a lingering disease and she was left to fend for her children by herself. (She herself avoided infection.)   Their 20 acre farm can produce enough corn to feed the family but there is nothing extra to pay for emergencies or for education.   One of her neighbors told her about the “Heifer Project” a program that gifted pregnant female animals and provided them to people life Mary.  She signed up and was selected as a recipient.  First she had to go through training, had to build an adequate shelter for the pig, and show that she could provide adequate food to support the pig.
Young pig
She was able to collect overripe bananas from a nearby market, and food waste from a neighborhood restaurant to feed her pigs, also their were local seed pods from that the pigs would eat.  Finally the great day came when her pregnant young pig was delivered to her.  She grew rapidly and gave birth to 8 piglets.  A provision of the Heifer program was that she must give the first female piglet to another family in the neighborhood after training the new recipient ( after is reached maturity and became pregnant). The regional Heifer agency provided for a visit to a local male pig to impregnate the new young female.  Each baby pig that were born to her mama pig could be sold for the equivalent of 80$ - that meant that Mary now had surplus wealth  for health care and to educate her kids.  The gift of the one pig made her financially secure, and the gift keeps giving because the first born will continue to be passed on to others by each recipient.

This Christmas I am asking for a Heifer pig to be bought in my name to be delivered to someone like Adilah.   But Heifer is the perfect solution for your hard to pick Christmas gifts!  What do you buy for that difficult great aunt? How about a goat?  ... or a swarm of bees?  ... or a flock of chickens. She will take much more pleasure thinking of her goat and its effect on a third world family than she would from another Chia pet!  To discover "Heifer" gift possibilities go to :

Chia pet - "just plant seeds and water!"

What makes people invisible? – They may be dirty or ragged, they may be socially marginilized – they may have mental illnesses or handicaps.  I wonder if perhaps we are reminded of the vulnerability that we all face as part of the human condition that makes it more pleasant to look away and choose to make them invisible. 

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