“Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding” (Isaiah 40:28 kjv).
Hope springs eternal in our souls for we know that God is with us. He blesses us, He protects us, He directs our path and leads us in what is our destiny.
Tuesday evening is upon us once again. The House of Love Soup Kitchen (a faith-based organization) is attempting to address the needs of families and people in the community suffering from food scarcity by serving a delicious nutritious meal on a weekly basis. It’s unbelievable that the budget adopted by the current administration proposes to cut eligibility for food stamps for at least 4 million people and reduce benefits for many others.
Have you ever received food stamps? Have you ever been hungry? Have you ever been in a position where the cupboards were bare, there was no food in the refrigerator, and you had children to feed? Well the writer of this essay has…I can answer yes to all the above questions. I know for a fact that food stamps do not stretch over the 30 or 31 days that they are supposed to last. If it had not been for the Lord being on our side working through the pantries and the government feeding programs to help supplement the stamps we received, my family and I would have had some very lean days…days where there was no food at all. He giveth power to the faint and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. (Isaiah 40:29)
I was a middle-class brat raised in the Bay Area of California…Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco…lived in all three of these cities. I had no understanding of what poverty really was because we as family were blessed to have plenty. My great grandfather was a teacher during the Reconstruction Era and eventually became a professor at Prairie View College in Texas. His children received their college degrees, his children’s children, and then eventually my generation as well. As a child I played the piano, wrote poetry, and loved music. While attending Berkeley High School I marched on picket lines in support of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. I went on to become a civil rights activist in San Francisco prior to relocating to the east coast (Harlem). Once in New York I became part of the Avant Garde artist movement…music and spoken word. There I met my husband Grachan Moncur III (jazz trombonist/composer). After living in Harlem for several years we were burned out and relocated to Newark, NJ.
His grandmother got us an apartment in the infamous high-rise projects. Many of these projects no longer exist but the mark they left on me was permanently imbedded in my psyche. So off to Newark we moved with our baby son onto Mercer Street perpendicular to Howard Street which was made famous by Newark writer Nathan Heard. We eventually had five more children. I made my acquaintance with poverty in my late twenties. It was through raising children in “the belly of the beast” that I became intimate with the blues…the welfare food stamp blues. The melancholy sound of the blue 7th colored my aura, the flat five sent my soul reeling into the depths of the music, the blues poured out of my heart, yet the music spoke to me personally assuring me that God would be with us through this new journey.
Unemployment from our NYC jobs ran out. We had a baby to feed, rent to pay along with the other expenses of life. Flying lying fiends snatched at my sanity attempting to squeeze the hope out of me. Beat down not knowing which way to turn God sent a messenger of mercy, a friend to guide and direct my path. My neighbor from down the hall told me that welfare had a program for families which included the husband where we could receive benefits. This program was for “the working poor”. Many people think there’s shame in being on welfare. It’s not the being on welfare but it’s what you do with the benefits. If you use the benefits as a stepping stone to independence, then where is the shame? Even though the food stamps only lasted about three weeks out of the month, I also had health benefits for the children. The program enabled me to return to college and eventually become a certified teacher in New Jersey. I used every resource available to me and my family in order to survive and avoid endless hunger and hardship. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
The holiday season was always a struggle…standing in line hours waiting for a turkey and a food box. Sitting a huge gymnasium, freezing, waiting on Santa who, inevitably showed up late and never quite had enough toys for all the boys and girls gathered desperately waiting for the holiday spirit of happiness. Thank God for the concern shown during that time of year but hunger is a year around adversity. If only empathy could become a permanent part of the American landscape touching a multitude of hearts and minds all twelve months out of the year.
Here are a few hunger facts that are a part of today’s reality taken from: https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-hunger-us
1 out of 6 Americans face hunger
49 million Americans struggle to put food on the table
1 out of 5 children are hungry
1 out 3 African American and Latino children suffer from food scarcity
In the US, hunger isn’t caused by a lack of food, but rather the continued prevalence of poverty.40 % of the food in America is thrown out every year…$165 billion dollars’ worth. All this uneaten food could feed 25 million Americans.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).
One of my sons, who is now deceased, co-founded the House of Love Soup Kitchen/Pantry because of his experiences as a child. He remembered what it was like having to live off food stamps. He remembered the pantries where we had to stand in line for hours to receive boxes of food. He remembered the government feeding programs, the 10-pound blocks of cheese we would get along with other food staples. He remembered the summer breakfast and lunch programs that warded off starvation in the richest nation of the world…starvation always looming just beyond the horizon. He wanted to make a difference in the community by having a place, a sanctuary where a person could come and momentarily forget the everyday struggles of life, eat a good wholesome meal, and enjoy the camaraderie of shared experiences. Dinner is ready.
Our hands join together to thank the Creator for His favor, and His Power, and His strength which lifts our spirits above the uncertainty of an economy governed by the wealthy. God embraces us with His Love enabling us to rise above circumstance, and to continue to live in His glory and His hope always rejoicing in Him.
© 2018, Tamam Tracy Moncur