Last Friday morning several of us from St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Visalia visited Pinkham Elementary School, continuing a tradition that began seven years ago when we began partnering with them. Each Thanksgiving, as well as each Christmas, St. Paul’s provides several student families with not only enough food for a holiday feast, but staples and ingredients for several additional days’ meals. It is a treat for us to shop intentionally for these families and then to deliver the food to school for them.
The custodian who was helping us unload the groceries was new to us, and unfamiliar with our routine. As we were making the last trip from our cars to the teachers’ workroom, he made a comment that really made me think. “It is too bad there aren’t as many generous people as there are poor people,” he said.
I really think there are. The difficulty lies in pairing up the generous people with those who need help. When I am downtown and see a homeless person stretched out in Oval Park, using his or her belongings as a pillow, I can safely assume that person needs help. But driving past Pinkham School, located in a middle class neighborhood and looking quite prosperous, how would I know that there were hungry children trying to learn in those classrooms? And yet nearly every teacher knows of at least one family that is hanging on by its fingernails, trying to make ends meet.
It is incumbent upon us to search out people who need our help — not just at the holidays, but all year long. We don’t individually need to re-invent the wheel; there are agencies who can readily identify those in need, and have systems in place to help people without destroying their privacy. But we, as individuals and congregations, need to do our parts.
Write out a generous check to FoodLink of Tulare County to help feed the hungry. Better yet, call them and ask how you can volunteer to sort food or fund raise. Donate food to Visalia Emergency Aid. Offer to work in their warehouse during distribution times. Take part in the Crop Walk Against Hunger in the spring, or the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving morning. Encourage your house of worship to be involved with the poor in our community, not just in overseas missions.
The need is there. The generous people are there, too. We simply need to act.