I Ask A Small Thing, Because I Ask For So Little

There is a feeling that builds deep inside me around the middle of November. I don’t celebrate holidays, so it’s not a holiday feeling exactly, but a sense of delight that my world will suddenly be filled with delicious foods, and that many of my friends will be home to visit. That I may, perhaps, spend a few pleasant evenings around tables groaning with food, surrounded by the people I love best. It doesn’t really matter to me why they’re there—what matters to me is the companionship, the food, my shared family that I have built for myself. What matters to me is pumpkin pie and fresh cranberry sauce and someone passing the pakoras, preferably with the spicy mango dipping sauce although I will not say no to coriander chutney either, truth be told.

I do not deny that, whether I celebrate them or not, we are in ‘the holiday season’ right now, and it’s a time when hardship often seems more apparent than at other times. When other people are celebrating plenty, your lack thereof is especially obvious. Tables groaning with food are not in everyone’s near future, especially this year. Economists may claim that we are in recovery but I see plenty of evidence to the contrary and I know that many people will be having a hard time this year, and that some of you are probably among them.

And I think to myself…what a wonderful world.

I do not normally publish charity appeals here, for a number of different reasons. I know that many of my readers cannot afford to give to charity, that some of you may be relying on charitable and/or government assistance for survival right now, in fact. And I know that those who do give to charity may already be allocating their funds and energies however they feel it’s most appropriate.

And, of course, the Western media is very saturated with messaging about charity at this time of year, complete with profiles of the most ‘deserving poor‘ in the eyes of news organisations. I know my grocery store is ramping up with food drives and I’m sure it’s not the only one; pretty much everyone is aware at this point that ‘seasonal giving’ is expected at the moment.

But the fact is that a lot of people are going hungry in the United States right now, especially in rural areas. The number of people utilizing government assistance for nutritional support is extremely high, we have a big jobless rate, people are running out of savings, and things are not good for many of us at this particular moment in time.

Surviving on food stamps is not an enjoyable activity. There are the byzantine rules about what you can and cannot buy, and the limited allowance available that makes it hard to buy in bulk, and the fact that many holiday foods are expensive. Whole turkeys are expensive. Fresh cranberries are expensive. Butter and cream are expensive. And especially if you have a long tradition in your family of celebrating holidays, and a very specific idea of what the holiday table looks like, those expensive expectations are very, very hard to meet.

Bright blessed days….dark sacred nights.

And that’s why I ask that if you are able to give, if you have any money for charity this year that you haven’t already earmarked, if you want to give and you’re not sure where to direct it, please consider giving it to your local food bank, or your grocery store, if it has a programme to get food into low-income households. If you have the ability to donate food, any food at all is lovely, but food for special diets would be particularly appreciated. That might be vegetarian or vegan, kosher, halal, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc. Many special diets can be extremely expensive and hard to accommodate at the holidays in particular, and having a taste of something that might not be otherwise available might make a big difference in someone’s winter.

Maybe you are already doing either or both of these things, or other things to increase access to food in your community. I assume that is the case with some of you. And maybe you cannot do any of these things, and do not have energy or time to donate to activities like bagging at the food bank or cooking meals. That is okay. I’ve been in bad places and bad times where I have been helped by the hands of others, and I like that I can turn around and give back now, but I certainly couldn’t at the time.

No, it’s not going to save the world. It’s not going to address the inequalities that are making so many of us hungry, and homeless, and desperate, right now. It’s not going to fix the fact that hunger will still be knocking at the door next week, for many of us. It’s not going to tear down the structures that keep women, particularly women of colour, nonwhite women, and women with disabilities, in poverty.

But sometimes, you have to take things one day at a time. And the day I see around me right now is one where everything around me is filled with messaging about the holidays, and how delightful they are, and how they revolve around food and fellowship. And I can’t do a damn thing to help people who are having a miserable holiday because they’re spending it with people they hate, or can’t be with people they love, or are dealing with recent losses, or are being harassed for being fat, or are having a hard time for whatever reason, but I can try to get a little more food on the table for people in my community. I can’t give everyone the fellowship and love and belonging that I will have at numerous tables in the coming months, but I can offer a small, temporary relief from the gnawing frustration of hunger.

And when you are hungry, a chance to be not hungry, even for a little while, is not something to be underestimated.

I see skies of blue…clouds of white.

I ask a small thing, because I ask for so little; I very rarely ask readers for contributions to any cause, but this is a cause that’s important to me. Readers often ask me if there’s ‘something [they] can do for me, or this site,’ and right now, this is your answer: Go help your community, if you aren’t doing it already.