STEPPING UP

If we cannot end our differences, at least,


we can help make the world safe for diversity.


John F. Kennedy


At the Austin City Food Bank, I watched my 72-year-old husband and a second elderly man from our church load box after box of food into a truck and a minivan. Each man then delivered the groceries to our church in preparation for an outside Food Pantry. Sweet old grey-haired men doing what they can to ease the pain of people they do not even know. (Before the pandemic, we allowed people to choose items from a long line of tables set up in our sanctuary. Today, cars drive by, inventories are taken through car windows, and volunteers load boxes into trunks of cars.) As I watched the two men load of boxes, I tried to imagine how it would feel to need food.


Thinking back, I imagine my parents were terribly low on funds when Daddy left his job as manager of the Odessa Railroad Station and moved us to a rural farming area. As college students with a new baby boy, my husband and I struggled to make ends meet. Aunt Maggie frequently sent boxes of canned goods, which, like it or not, we ate at the end of the month. Further down the journey, as a single parent, I sometimes put my head on the table and cried as I struggled to determine which bills to pay and which ones to hold for another time. Regardless of how little money I had, I never worried about being able to feed the children or keep a roof over our heads.


I imagine many people today lack the benefits of a backup plan, which I always had. I knew that if I lost everything, my West Texas family would not have allowed us to go hungry. We would not have become homeless. Today, I wonder, “How must a parent feel when no backup plan exists?” What terror must a parent endure when faced with the prospect of being on the streets with young children. I believe that level of fear must count as the worst-possible nightmare.


I do not understand why our government cannot dredge up enough cooperative spirit to agree on a package significant enough to end this level of torture. This is not a question that hopes for an answer. Nor does the question ask for finger-pointing. Our current crisis with families is much more pronounced than an issue between Democrats and Republicans. Larger than government, selfishness, and greed have established a tone that our elected officials now reflect.


In a republic, “we the people” elect individuals to represent us. I fear that our current leaders, all too accurately, represent a soul-scorching illness hidden within our citizenry. I have no solutions other than to hope—to pray that the next election will represent a more compassionate population. In the meantime, in hopes of helping in small ways, ordinary citizens will step up to do what they can.