For the Hungry, And the Humbled

If you’re like me, you might be a bit ashamed to admit that you’re in desperate need of a post-holidays detox and/or diet. And, if you’re really like me, part of the shame comes not so much from listing the minor infractions (yes, eating 2 krembos in 1 sitting is a *minor*) but from realizing that in the moments during these past two weeks when my stomach was the most full, my glass overflowing and my laughter unceasing, I wasn’t as aware of the less fortunate as I could have and should have been.
On my drive home on Monday night (after sundown, as the temperatures started to dip), I pulled off of 94 onto the Lexington Ave exit and noticed a man standing on the side of the ramp. He was bundled up as best as he could be against the frigid wind and was holding a sign that read, simply “Homeless. Humbled.” I typically prefer to donate to organizations but I felt compelled to do something for this man. Like many people my age, I don’t usually carry cash so didn’t have anything to give. Until I remembered that I had recently restocked my “car snack” stash and had  Nutrigrain bars in my glove box. The light was turning green but there was nobody behind me (and I wouldn’t have cared if there was at that point), so I rolled down my window and said “I don’t have any cash but I do have some Nutrigrain bars if you’re hungry.” The man’s eyes light up with appreciation as he reached for the box with a “Thank you. That is so awesome.” As I turned the corner, I could see him eagerly opening the bars with his ungloved hands. And I realized, as I drove the remaining mile home to my warm apartment with a stocked fridge and a chanukkiah waiting to be lit, that I was the one who had been humbled.
I don’t tell you the story to make myself seem like a wonderful person – in fact, I thought long and hard about whether or not I should tell it in case it might come across that way. I’m telling the story because I can’t stop thinking about the man’s eyes as he accepted a small box of snacks. In every meal I’ve eaten since that exchange, I’ve felt a profound sense of gratitude and a heightened awareness of how lucky blessed I am to not have to worry about whether or not there will be food on the table for the next one.
I hope that many of you have felt that same gratitude in these past few weeks (or better yet – always) and that you’ve used it as reminder to give tzedakah (which is technically something we do out of obligation, not out of fuzzy warm feelings but you get the point). If you haven’t already done so or if it’s time to give some more, I hope that you’ll join me in helping feed those who are hungry. If you’re not entirely sure where to start, check out Second Harvest Heartland or Mazon. Don’t forget that volunteering your time or advocating to end hunger are also important ways to help.
And, if you’re really like me, let’s set ourselves reminders to be more mindful. I’ll be taking a cue from my mother (how wise is that woman?!) and placing a “hunger piggy” (devoted completely to hunger relief) in my kitchen where it will be noticed as I prep meals. Yes, it’s probably a bit sacrilegious to have a piggy bank tzedakah box in my Jewish kitchen, so if you ever see a moo-moo bank, just let me know.

Your turn: what will you do/have you done to keep yourself mindful of the less fortunate and remember to help as much as your able? Let’s share ideas in the comments below. Bonus points for creativity and ease of execution!

(Photo: Daquella manera)