Doing the right thing?

Pasta is a feature of the Argentine cuisine

Pasta is a feature of the Argentine cuisine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t know why I’m even thinking about this.  This afternoon, one of my neighbors knocked on my door and asked if I had anything at all I could give them to cook for dinner tonight.  The only reason I had to stop and think about it at all was because she has two little ones and I was trying to think of what I had that they’d eat.  Most of what I have in my pantry are things like quinoa, brown rice, dry beans, couscous, you get the picture.  I finally asked if they like spaghetti.  She said they love spaghetti so I went to my pantry to give her what I had.  Well, no spaghetti (thought for sure I’d bought a box of whole wheat spaghetti, but I guess not), but I did have a box of rotini and a jar of pasta sauce and some canned veggies.  She was so grateful, telling me she wouldn’t get her food stamps for a few more days.  Well, I’m not worried about the food, that’s for sure.

I just can’t imagine how humiliating it would be to have to ask someone you only know in passing for food to feed your kids.  She works two jobs and is on medical leave.  She’s able to use her sick time from her full-time job, but there’s nothing to make up for the money she’d earn with her  part-time job.  So she’s making enough to pay the rent and utilities, but that’s it.  I don’t even want to get into the whole political aspect of this.  It’s just a shame that someone who works so hard has to struggle like this when she gets sick.

Whatever your thoughts on that aspect of it might be, you have to consider the kids.  They have no say in anything that goes on in their lives.  And to think of them having to go to bed without something to eat because their mom’s sick…I can’t just stand by and watch that.  I hear people make comments about people on food stamps, about people who utilize the food pantries, about people who can’t make ends meet.  You know, if there are people out there who are abusing the system or taking advantage of someone else’s generosity, that’s on them.  But how could you live with yourself if someone was genuinely in need and you turned your back on them?  If you had the ability to ensure a child doesn’t go to bed hungry and you looked the other way, what kind of person does that make you?

Now I’m debating with myself about whether or not I should go to the grocery store in the morning and buy some food for them.  Or maybe I can go buy a gift card and anonymously leave it on her door, she would know more what her kids would eat than I would.  I just shake my head that here we are in the richest nation on the planet and there are people who have no food.  What a sad situation.

Why shouldn’t we talk about gun control?

Boston, MA

Boston, MA (Photo credit: JasonParis)

For years now, every time there’s a tragedy involving guns we have to listen to the gun activists talk about how the government is out to take away everyone’s guns.  The second amendment and all of that.  And the NRA (one of the most powerful lobbies in our country, by the way) owns so many politicians that they won’t even discuss what we might be able to do, as a country, to end this senseless violence.

I’m not suggesting that anyone should come and round up all of the guns that Americans own.  Very few people are suggesting that.  That is the fear mongering that the NRA (and the ultra right-wing conservative talk show hosts) spread throughout the country.  As long as they have people talking about that, then they don’t have to be concerned that there might actually be a discussion about what we can do to keep assault weapons out of the hands of people who will use them to kill others (and really, isn’t that what they were designed to do?  No matter how you look at it, that is the purpose of assault weapons.).

Why can’t it be more difficult for mentally ill people to obtain assault weapons?  Why, in this country, should it be more difficult to vote than it is to obtain an assault weapon?  Why is a more thorough check run on people wanting to purchase cold medication than on people wanting to buy a gun?  And why can’t we have this discussion?  Why does asking these questions automatically brand a person as a communist, nazi, bleeding heart, or (gasp) a liberal?  Are you saying that the second amendment trumps the first amendment?  I don’t think asking these questions makes me less of a patriot than the person who owns numerous weapons and thinks there should be no gun control at all.  I don’t think asking these questions makes me un-American.  I don’t think asking these questions makes me a danger to the citizens of our country or to the very survival of our country.

What I do think is that we need to find a way to reduce the violence that has become so prevalent in our society.  I do believe we need to teach our children acceptance and tolerance of those who are different, whether that difference be race, religion, political affiliation, sexual preference, whatever.  If we can teach our children that violence isn’t the answer, that it is not a solution, we’ll go a long way toward eliminating that violence.  Why can’t we discuss what it will take to accomplish this?  I think most of us want what’s best for our country.  We just don’t all agree on what that is.  But can’t we begin the process of reaching an agreement, of healing the wounds, of becoming one country again?  We’re all Americans, isn’t it time we act like it?

Well, ain’t that just a kick in the teeth?

What would Jesus do?

What would Jesus do? (Photo credit: duncan)

What would have happened if, when the little boy was finished singing his “ain’t no homos going to heaven” song, one of those adults had been brave enough to face all of those cheering adults and tell them that their behavior wasn’t imitating the behavior of Jesus?  Would any of them have listened?  Would any of them have felt shame in their own behavior?  Would any of them have questioned what they were teaching the children in their church?

Being the cynical liberal thinker that I am, I kind of doubt it.  I’m afraid they may have shouted him down.  That they may have insulted him or even done physical harm to him.  And isn’t that a sad thing to think about people who are supposed to be trying to live as Jesus would live?  I always wonder if people who behave that way understand how they turn so many people off of Christianity by that type of behavior…

It makes me sad to see this type of behavior from anyone, but especially from people who claim to follow Jesus’ teachings.  They should know better.  Perhaps they should take the time to sit down, think things over and ask themselves, “honestly, what would Jesus do?”…the Jesus I know wouldn’t teach children to hate and he most certainly wouldn’t stand there and cheer when a child (or anyone, for that matter) sang a song expressing that hatred…I think he would have been saddened by what happened in that church that day…I know I was.

Live below the line, day 5

Easter egg radishes, just harvested

Easter egg radishes, just harvested (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thank goodness, this is the last day of this challenge.  I had a rough time today…had a rough day at work…so busy that I didn’t have time to take breaks or lunch…headache from not eating…really, really wanted to stop and get a pizza after work, but talked myself out of it…if I were truly living in extreme poverty, stopping for a pizza wouldn’t even be a possibility…so I did make it thru the final day.

Let’s see, how did I do?

Breakfast:

(Once again)…2 slices of toast  10¢,  1 T peanut butter  6¢,  6 oz oj  14¢,  8 oz skim milk 15¢

Total for breakfast…45¢

Lunch:

no lunch…no time…did drink a diet Pepsi tho…so the cost of that was  46¢, so I’ll count that as my lunch

Total for lunch  46¢

Dinner:

grilled cheese sandwich   20¢, radishes (free-someone asked about the radishes really being free, cost of the seeds and all…yes, I did buy seeds a couple of years ago, but let one of the radish plants go to seed last year and saved the seeds…so surely we can consider that to be free now, right?), celery  8¢, pickle chips  14¢, hot tea 4¢

Total for dinner…46¢

Total for the day  $1.37

So…not the healthiest of days today…but I did it.

What did I take away from this challenge?  Well, obviously how difficult it is to eat a healthy, nutritious diet when you have to scrounge for pennies to buy your food.  Also how much planning and preparation would go into being able to eat even semi-well for such a miniscule amount of money.  I definitely have a greater appreciation for my mom and grandmother and all of the time they put into gardening, preserving what they grew or gathered, and cooking.   That’s a lot of work…and they did it year in and year out.  But we always had enough to eat and a much better variety of food than what I spent the past week eating.

I have always thought we need to teach people to be self-sufficient…after this week, I believe that even more.  Now to figure out how to go about doing that…what organizations are already doing this?  And what can I do to help?

 

Live below the line, day 4

These children live in a garbage dump

These children live in a garbage dump (Photo credit: GlacierTim)

I’m not sure if today was easier or harder…I had the day off work, so was actually surrounded by food and all of the possibilities that presents…I thought I’d go in the kitchen and bake a batch of cookies (hmm…with chocolate, anyone?).  And maybe prepare a pizza for dinner.  I actually have all of the ingredients for both in my kitchen right now, so I wouldn’t have to buy anything.  But I think that kind of goes against what this challenge is all about.  Yes, I have the food in my kitchen, but if I had to live on only $1.50 a day long-term, chances are I wouldn’t have what I need to make those yummy cookies. So I resisted, telling myself it’s just today and tomorrow.

And that’s where I think we can learn a lesson.  For us, it’s just today and tomorrow.  For the chronically impoverished, there is no end in sight.  They can’t say “I’ll make it through today and tomorrow on only $1.50 a day, then I can spend whatever I want on food and drink.”  For them, it’s a matter of how can I possibly stretch this money?  How can I buy the basics?  What do I have to give up in order to buy food today?  Where can I come up with a few cents extra today?

This really makes me sad.  When I think of how much money our country spends on our elected officials’ pet projects, all of the waste in our government, I get angry.  Angry that the people we elect have turned their backs on the poor and needy among us and are falling all over themselves to give additional breaks to the super wealthy and multi-national corporations.  Children, in our country, or anywhere else, shouldn’t have to go to bed hungry.  I would love to see some of my tax money going to provide additional funds for community gardens, for providing free seeds so people could grow a few vegetable plants on their patio or windowsill.   Helping people help themselves.

I always tell people to get out there and vote.  That voting the lousy politicians out is the only way we can implement the programs with which we agree.  But what if none of the politicians are supporting an agenda with which you agree?

Anyhow, stepping down from my political soap box now…how did I do today?  Fairly well…despite the desire for something sweet and yummy.

Breakfast:

(Surprise, surprise)…2 slices of toast  10¢,  1 T peanut butter  6¢,  6 oz oj  14¢,  hot tea  4¢

Total for breakfast…34¢

Lunch:

1 chicken tender  30¢, 1 slice bread  5¢, radishes (free), celery  8¢, 1/2 banana  9¢, hot tea 4¢

Total for lunch…56¢

Dinner:

bowl of cereal  8¢, 8 oz milk  15¢, 1/2 banana 9¢

Total for dinner…32¢

Snack:

hot air-popped popcorn…16¢, butter  2¢, Parmesan cheese  3¢, hot tea  4¢

Total for snack…25¢

Total for the day  $1.47

The popcorn really tasted good…I may actually eat that as a snack more often rather than microwave (convenient) popcorn.  So I managed to make it through another day…wow…this sure makes me appreciate my grandmother and her struggles a lot more…I bet she could have done this challenge easily…and probably preparing better food than I’ve been eating.

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Live below the line, day 3

Poverty

Poverty (Photo credit: carlaarena)

This is not getting any easier!  I had to work a mid-shift today (10:30-7…blah), ate breakfast before I went in, had a meeting to prepare for and then the actual meeting itself, so didn’t really eat lunch.  Had dinner at 5.  So it was kind of an odd eating day for me.  I haven’t figured up my total cost of food for the day yet, but I can’t imagine that I went over…we’ll see…

Breakfast:

2 slices toast  .10, 1 T peanut butter  .06, 6-oz oj  .14,  milk  .15  (sound familiar?  this is actually what I eat just about every morning)

Total for breakfast was 45 cents

Snack:

crackers  .14, hot tea  .04

Total for snack was 18 cents

Dinner:

1 chicken tender  .30, 1 slice bread .05, radishes  free (from my garden),  celery  .08, hot tea  .04, frozen fruit  .42

Dinner’s total was .89

So that makes the total for the day $1.52

There are a lot of folks participating in this challenge.  I’ve been reading some of their blogs this week.  I think we’re all getting a glimpse into the lives of people who live in extreme poverty.  Enough of a glimpse to feel a lot of compassion, I’m sure.  But I can’t help but  think that there’s an end in sight for us whereas, for many of these people, there isn’t. I feel for people who live their lives without a lot of hope, without the belief that it can ever be different for them.  I hope everyone will donate to their local food banks, donate to worldwide poverty relief organizations, help the neighbor or family member who has fallen on tough times…but what I would really like to see is our politicians join forces to make this better.  Do I have a lot of hope that this will happen?  Not unless enough of us demand it.

Live below the line, day 2

Picture of siblings living in extreme poverty ...

Picture of siblings living in extreme poverty in El Salvador. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wow…it was much more difficult to do this today…just 2 days in…I kept thinking about getting something from the vending machine…then had to keep telling myself that someone living in extreme poverty probably wouldn’t have the dollar to waste.  So I did manage to resist.  But I did find myself hungry this afternoon while I was working, really hungry by the time I made it home.

Today’s food and costs are as follows…

Breakfast:

2 slices toast .10, 1T peanut butter  .06,  6 oz oj  .14, cup of hot tea  .04

Total for breakfast  34 cents

Lunch:

pot pie  .35, 1 celery stalk .08, carrots  .07, water  free

Total for lunch  50 cents

Snack:

1/2 serving crackers  .07, water free

Dinner:

baked potato .20, 1/4 C cottage cheese  .18, hot tea  .04,  banana  .18

Total cost for the day…$1.51

So, I did eat a little healthier today, but it wasn’t the tastiest of diets.  I think it would take some major planning for me to eat like this all of the time…well, that or extreme poverty, I suppose.  This kind of makes me think that we should have cooking, shopping, gardening, food preservation, and nutrition classes for the poorest among us…something to help them eat as healthy a diet as possible given the financial limitations they face. Of course, in our current political climate, people don’t seem to be willing to provide any kind of funding to help the people who are faced with abject poverty.  Do I think this is a political issue?  You bet I do.