Faces on Faith: Day-old bagels
A couple of years ago my wife, Linda, got held up by TSA as she was going through security at Newark Airport. She had gone north to visit two of her elderly aunts in upstate New York, and decided to go via New Jersey so that she could also visit with some old co-workers.
Linda’s friend Laurie, who lives up in Ocala, also comes from New York. So when she heard Linda was making the trip north she had a request. “Could you bring me back some of those ring-shaped pastas and some Grandma Brown’s Baked Beans? They just don’t seem to sell them down here.” So, Linda obliged her – and on the return trip packed several boxes of pasta in her suitcase, along with a big can of Grandma Brown’s. A really big can.
Apparently when a big can buried in your suitcase passes through one of the security X-ray machines it looks something like a pipe bomb. So needless to say, Linda was stopped, frisked, and asked about the beans. “Don’t worry,” said Linda, “they don’t explode until you eat them.” The agent didn’t laugh. But he did eventually let them go through, and Linda’s friend is a happy camper.
And so am I – because Linda also packed one other food item – bagels. Delicious, New Jersey bagels made at a shop owned by our old buddy George. Crusty on the outside, chewy in the center. There just is nothing really like them here in Lee County. Of course, by the time she gave them to me the next morning they weren’t exactly fresh. In fact, by then they were day-old bagels. But they were still delicious! She could have just eaten some while she was up north, but instead she decided to share.
Linda and I try to support our local food pantries, as do most of our congregants. We bring items that stock the pantry at F.I.S.H. of Sanibel-Captiva, and two off island pantries as well. And so do all the religious communities on Sanibel and Captiva. We all respond to God’s call to care for the hungry, to feed those in need.
But sharing our leftovers and filling in the gaps is merely a band-aid. The reality is if we are going to effectively meet the needs of the hungry, we will need to do more than give them our leftovers. We will need to work for systemic changes. We will need to work for that day when no one in this great country of ours goes hungry. We need to work with agencies like F.I.S.H. that seek to address the broader issues that lead to hunger. And we must be willing to engage with our elected leaders locally, in Tallahassee and in Washington. We need to let them know in no uncertain terms that in America, no one should go hungry.
Don’t misunderstand. It is imperative that we continue to provide the stop gap solutions. Because there are people who are hungry right now. But we need to do more. How? I certainly have some ideas – and perhaps you do as well. We might have different solutions, different approaches in mind. But for now, perhaps we can agree on this: no American should be hungry. Day-old bread and bagels are fine for the interim, but let us commit to moving towards solutions that work for all.
The Rev. Dr. John H. Danner is the senior pastor at Sanibel Congregational United Church of Christ.