I saw a link to this essay in my Twitter timeline; it’s not D.C.-specific, but the issue it addresses is one this city struggles with…and I can’t stop thinking about it, though I finished reading it an hour ago. It’s powerful.
I remember my brother whining. He was hungry. I felt it too.
I climbed up onto the counter to get a good look inside the kitchen cupboards. I found only jars of dried lentils, spices, and boxes of tea. A bag of cereal hidden away in the back of the cabinet caught my eye. I poured the contents into two bowls, only to find worms crawling inside. I screamed, and then quickly pretended there was nothing wrong. I didn’t want to frighten my baby brother. It was important to be responsible and be a good older sister. I shouldn’t scare him with details…
I did the only thing I could think of. I grabbed my green winter coat, put on my boots, and headed for the door. I didn’t have a specific plan. All I knew was that we needed a snack. I told my brother I’d be right back.
What happened to that child next is going to haunt me for the rest of the day:
As far as I was concerned, this idea of mine was going to be easy. These people were sure to have more than enough food to spare. They were going to thank me for taking all their extra cookies and white bread off their hands.
The front door opened…“Yes?” she said. She stared at me with a detached air that reminded me of all the rich people I had ever met.
“We’re hungry,” I said. “There’s nothing in our house to eat.”…
She gripped the glass storm door. I couldn’t understand why she kept me outside on her snowy front step. I shifted my feet inside my rubber boots. The fake fur had rubbed away and all I could feel were my bare feet against rubber and snow. It was then I realized I had made a very big mistake. I couldn’t trust this woman for her help.
I’ve abridged it, but you can read the whole thing, here.
Today, I was looking for tea in a hard-to-reach kitchen cabinet that I needed a stepladder to access. I ended up discovering crackers and cereal that my Aunt had helpfully stashed up there when she reorganized my kitchen this spring, instead. I didn’t know they were there, so they expired and I had to toss them. I’m guiltily staring at the white garbage bag right now, tied and waiting by the front door. The amount of food I waste and have to throw away makes me feel awful; that someone could turn their back on a neighborhood child who approached them, out of the rawest, most desperate sort of need makes me want to weep. We must do more. I must do more.