Keeping Our Hearts Open For Business

By Sunday, November 10, 2013 13 0

Imagine that your food budget just got cut. You have to give up some food each month. What will you give up? Cheese? Fresh vegetables? Coffee? Sugar? (Don’t know about you, but I am starting to panic at this point.)dahl

Less food is the new reality for one in seven people in the U.S. (47 million folks). Food stamps just got cut, the largest cut since the federal program started in 1964.

This post will not rail about the cut. Instead, this post will state that sharing makes us rich in what matters. Especially, sharing food.

I’m suggesting we share food steadily with folks who don’t have enough. Weekly would not be too often. Writing a check once a year is not the same, at all. A once-a-year practice lets us push hungry people — often our neighbors - out of our minds 364 days a year.

Why is it so important to share frequently? Sharing  keeps our hearts open instead of closed off. We’re all aware, on some level, that millions of our fellow citizens are hungry. Ignoring that fact, and telling ourselves the untruth that there is nothing we can do about it, keeps our hearts shut down on a subtle, core level.

We all can do something about hunger. That something is called sharing. Sharing re-opens our hearts for business, every time we do it. Re-opened hearts lead to more loving behavior in general to those around us. Sharing makes us richer in what matters.

Every visible act of sharing  we do inspires those around us to share, too. Research show we are strongly influenced by what others do, even when we think we are making independent decisions. For example, when you put two dollars in the red Salvation Army can outside the mall that’s staffed by the bell-ringing lady, the dozens of people who see you do it become more likely to donate, too.

We can each be a leader.

Another idea: share at the grocery checkout by purchasing (swiping) the laminated cards that supplies meals for the hungry. (These aren’t always visible. Ask the checker if they offer them.) Here in Portland, Oregon, New Seasons and Whole Foods stores have this option. So does the Ashland Food Co-op in Ashland, Oregon (where I travel for my work). I buy these every time I get the chance. My theory is that if I get to eat, others do too. I feel uplifted, every time. By now, I look forward to the experience. I’ve seen one writer call this kind of thing “positive addiction”.

Consider having a Protein Party, to replace a conventional Christmas party.

Here’s another way we can build sharing into our lives. My husband Thor and I are throwing our 10th annual Christmas party on Sunday, December 8th. We’re asking everyone to bring two cans of protein per person (and to skip their typical wine contributions). We’ll donate all this food to the Backpack Project, operated out of the Rosewood Community Center a couple miles from our house. (My church friends Mary Beth, Caitlin and Thompson created the Backpack Project so that kids can take nutritious food home on Fridays in their backpacks, for the weekend. My friend Christina is now helping them. My friends rock.)

Diamond-cut principle: sharing steadily keeps our hearts open for business. If we have enough to eat, we have enough to share. Not just at Christmas, or with an annual check to a charity, but as a steady way of life.

Heretical, huh. But then, cultivating richness in what matters is heretical. Let’s remember that Jesus was a heretic. So was the Buddha. If we’re heretical we’re in good company. Here’s a short piece I wrote recently on the heretical truth about money.

I’ll close with my favorite recent experience around food and sharing. Thor and I were doing our Friday night gig where we help serve a community dinner to street people. The leader asked Thor to lead everyone in prayer, not knowing that Thor is on the non-traditional side.

Thor went front and center. “Yo! Everyone listen up!” he boomed. The chattering room hushed.

“God is about love!” Thor declared. “Food is about love. We made this food with love. God and food and love, they’re all mixed in together. Let’s all treat each other with love. And let’s eat. Amen!”

I love my husband.

Please speak up. Do you have more ideas on how to share food as a way of life? Ever had an interesting experience of sharing food with someone who was hungry?

  • mick wiley
    November 10, 2013

    Your post is moving & thoughtful. The Thor prayer part was priceless.

    Years ago I bought some bags of groceries for a room mate who was unemployed & struggling at the time. We have all been there at one time or another and. need a helping hand, I will always remember the look of appreciation on his face. Small acts of kindness go a long ways.

    • Alison
      November 10, 2013

      Mick, I totally remember the time back in the 80′s when you bought groceries for one of your roommates in Fullerton. That would have been either Dirk or Cindy. I loved what you did back then, at the time, and I love it now. Thanks for sharing your story, hermano mio.

  • Jen
    November 10, 2013

    I think Thor should write a book of prayers. Nice and practical and to the point.

    When I think of sharing food I remember the generosity of my church family bringing meals over during the weeks after my second child was born. It was very nurturing and nourishing and helped us stay connected and feel cared for during a whirlwind time of change. I especially liked getting to know people more by way of the food that they enjoy.

    • Alison
      November 10, 2013


      Thor’s star is definitely rising! :)

      I wish I had known you back when you gave birth to Alan. I could have brought you and your family one of my famous-in-my-own-mind enchilada casseroles.

      Wait a minute — I just remembered that last year I sent you home from a Lincoln Street Church coffee hour with one of my enchilada casseroles. You brought the dish back very clean. Maybe this can count? :)

  • Kathy
    November 11, 2013

    Great post, Alison. It’s a keeper. I will keep this one in my mind and see what I can do with it. One of the things I am confronted with over here in Central Asia is the presence of some of our U.S. government agencies who have in theory strived to do right by communities and help them in their hunger struggles but have inadvertently (or maybe not always so inadvertently?) made things far worse for the communities to which they provided “aid”.

    Example: importing U.S. rice into Haiti and selling it for a fraction of the price of the more nutritious, more labor-intensive native rice. This decimates family farming in the Haitian country side and thereby creating a work force desperate enough to participate in nearly slave labor in the sweat shops that churn out “cheap” American clothing, which isn’t cheap at all if factor in the cost of human dignity and respect, etc., etc.

    The position of the U.S. agency on this is that it is INEFFICIENT (hark back to one of your recent posts) for Haitians to produce food that can be grown more cheaply somewhere else. Never mind that we just wrecked the entire livelihood of many people and put them at the mercy of global rice prices.

    Wow. How’d I get there?

    What I meant to say is thank you for an insightful and meaningful post. I, too, loved Thor’s prayer and remember how fun it was to chat with him briefly in line at the turkey dinner last year at Lincoln Street. I love your idea of collecting food for the Back Pack Project at your Christmas party. Denise and I are thinking of hosting a party when our consumables shipment arrives - perhaps we can do the same thing here and donate the collected food to a local orphanage. They desperately need additional resources.

    • Alison
      November 12, 2013


      I love that you got there, i.e. made the connection between this post on food, and the earlier post on When Efficiency Hurts Us. Perfect connection.

      Barbara K. and I talked after church yesterday about Common Cup homeless shelter. She said a person who had anonymously donated Trimet bus tickets to Common Cup guests last year appeared to have moved to Tajikistan. “Wow,” I said. “I’m such a hammy extrovert that I find it hard to do the anonymous thing.”

      “Me too,” Barbara said cheerfully.

      Yesterday I dropped off two books of bus tickets at Barbara’s house for her to give to Common Cup guests. (OK, two books minus the ticket I gave to the guy sitting outside of New Seasons).

      Thanks for your good, in-depth comment, Kathy.

  • Kathy
    November 12, 2013

    I can’t take credit for donating the TriMet bus tickets last year as that was the idea of another person we know who also happened to move to Tajikistan. And it is just exactly like her to not want to call attention to herself when it comes to these sort of situations. She has a wonderful and lovely heart.

    • Alison
      November 15, 2013

      Kathy, I agree that our mutual friend in Tajikistan with you has a wonderful and lovely heart.

  • Colleen
    November 12, 2013

    I’ve witnessed malnutrition first-hand through my volunteer work and travels in Africa, and this is where I feel pulled to donate when it comes to food. While in Central Africa last September, I donated money to buy food for the children at the orphanage where the two we are adopting have lived for more than half their young lives. Nearly all of the children come to the orphanage suffering from serious malnutrition, and a continuous supply of good food helps them overcome, at least partially, its effects. After we bring our two home, we plan to continue orphanage food support.

  • Debra Yearwood
    November 13, 2013

    Great post Alison. The lack of food is such a sad, and I think shameful reality. In countries as rich as ours it seems ridiculous that there are people who go without.

    My local grocery store keeps a large basket (playpen sized) available at the front of the store so that after you purchase your groceries you can drop things off. Periodically they go through the store and leave little signs indicating the kinds of foods/items that would be good to donate.

    We have to ask ourselves if these kinds of things are the right or only solution. While I think they can build community, I also think it is the job of government to take care of citizens and I would gladly pay and have my taxes go to better supporting those who need help.

  • Mike
    November 17, 2013

    That is awesome on your Christmas party, Alison! What a beautiful gesture to donate to the Backpack Project :)

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