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It's About Hunger

By Remy Benoit

   Thanksgiving is upon us.

   The markets are filled with food.

   Many stores are beautifully decorated for the holidays.

   Many of us will spend the holidays with loved ones at abundant tables.

   But many will spend them alone with very sparse tables.

   Many years ago in a classroom a young man asked a simple question. He asked it with tears in his eyes, after a detailed explanation of trade, tariffs,embargoes, etc.

   He asked the question of me.

   "But why do people have to go hungry?"

   We are still searching for an answer to that young man's question.

   You can help with just a click to a website:
Hunger Site.
   The young man's question has stayed with me all these years.

   I made his question a part of my newest novel,Loving, which will soon be published in the United Kingdom by Pharaoh Press Pharaoh Press.

   Loving continues Jesse and Mellie's story from Peace, Now; continues to explain what life with PTSD is like; what it means to be an MIA wife; what it means to have your best friend vaporized in war.
Loving also addresses the brotherhood of soldiers, and the travesty of bloated, empty bellies.

   I want that not so young man now to know we are still trying to find a decent answer to his question and a solution to the problem.
Hunger Site.

   Remember - Sharing is Caring. Sharing is Compassion.

From Loving:

The clock on the wall, the standard school clock, round and white with black hands, cast by the thousands in institutional ugliness, standardness, the hand of the clock on the wall struck the hour. The young people fresh with the beginning of a new day, sitting in their first period class, only half way through it, continuing the discussion from the day before; fresh with the beginnings of the lives they were just becoming aware that they were beginning to build, just faintly aware, caught in that ninth grade world of not kids anymore, not yet young adults, their bodies bursting with hormones, blossoming with developing bodies; young male voices just on the edge of beginning to crack, squeak; young women facing their monthly tribulations, standing sideways in mirrors to catch the slightest curve of an increase in the volume of their bosoms.
Young men and women bursting outside of bodies too earth bound to hold them: thin and gangly, too, too heavy and awkward, with light  pouring out of them into the air around them, some of them glowing with health, personal awareness, joy in their days of being explorers of themselves; some of their light dark, heavy, burdened with complexes, neuroses, shame at blemished faces, shame at not knowing what to say when, knowing that they could count on themselves to always say the wrong thing, wear the wrong thing, give the wrong answer, always, always, finding the darkness of the heart breaking rather than the light of the soul rejoicing.

All of them sitting there in front of her, placed in her care, stone silent, waiting for Rhea Devereaux to answer the question the tousled haired, light brown haired boy/man with deep green eyes open wide in expectation of a reasonable, explaining answer; the question still hanging heavy in the air, heavy in her heart...what a moment, a moment in time to show truly who we were, as opposed to who we purported to be, who she was,  Lord, what a heavy, heavy responsibility being a teacher do I answer this question that came right from the heart of this young man, expecting to hear a reasonable, livable answer....

The discussion had been about trade routes, trade agreements, resources being moved back and forth across the planet, raw, manufactured, goods basic, goods luxurious, goods essential, vital: lumber, spices, machines, weapons, clothing, radios, televisions, records, cars and  food. Food, so taken for granted, so elemental, food coming from a nourishing planet, sown, harvested by its inhabitants, crated, shipped, marketed sold into baskets, into bags, going home to pantries, kitchens, to tables, to knives and keeping us going, keeping us moving; holiday tables swelling with food like the coming Thanksgiving tables with golden browned turkeys, suckling pigs with crackling skin, potatoes in infinite varieties, vegetables green, yellow, red, separate, mixed; the whole table top covered with breads, simple light brown rectangular loaves, braided loaves, circular loaves, to be spread with jams, butters, plain salted, unsalted, herbed. Food, here and now, in this time and place, more food than most people throughout the centuries had ever seen in one place at one time; food swimming in gravies, dressings for crisp fresh salads, soured creams with onions, mushrooms, eggs, sliced white with golden centers, purple with pickling in beet juices, halved egg whites cradling deviled, bumpy centers of gold mixed in mayonnaise and mustard, salt, pepper, paprika from distant shores....

Buffets leaning their heavy weight on polished wood, rugged floors, tops covered with creamed pies, meringued pies, layered cakes oozing with chocolates, strawberries, cherries, brandies and whipped creams, cheesecakes, plain, chocolate, fruited to be taken with wines, coffees, creamed, Irished, so glorious, so delicate, so infinite in variety, food so elemental for life... holiday foods with cookies, plain, round, cut, designed, sugared, nutted, filled iced, Santa'd and reindeered resting on the lawns of gingerbread houses neighboring towering cut glass, crystaled, milk glassed punchbowls filled with mulled wines or egg nogs... bread baskets, refrigerated vegetable bins, pantries, food, butlers' with endless serving dishes and utensils, candles and holders, fruits on counter tops waiting for a hand to grab them in whim, appetite, hunger...
that question still lying in the heavy, moist quiet air... But, Mrs. Devereaux, why is there hunger anywhere on this planet when there is so much food?

The question still waiting for more of an answer than she had given;  more of an answer than trade balances and deficits, government paying subsidies to plow under crops to keep up prices, more of an answer than corrupt officials who steal food to sell on black markets when the eyes of the children in their countries are corrupted by flies, while the bellies of the children swell with emptiness...

for more of an answer than this is as far as we have grown, as far as we have developed a sense of responsibility for others, sitting down at tables brimming, spilling over with food while somewhere on this spinning blue ball a child, several children and their parents sit down on a dirt floor with  a bowl, a small bowl of rice for sharing, spiced with a sauce of fish, expanded with some kind of meat well beyond the days when it should have been ingested, its rancidness blanched by the spiced sauce...

celebrities on the television saying help feed the children, clothe the children, educate the children for twenty-five, fifty, seventy-five cents a less cup of coffee, one less piece of pie a day...

all those eyes of all those young people looking at her, all those ears of all those young people having heard her words about trade balances, price supports, shipping costs, refrigeration breaking down, refrigeration not existing in still so many places; all those pockets of all those kids with notes that read, "On your way home, stop at the supermarket and pick up...." The bellies of some of the young people in this very room going to be left only partially filled this very night because a parent was out of work, or someone in the family needed expensive surgery, or the exhaust system of the car had rotted out and had to be replaced so someone could get to work and the bill had to be paid...

and Jesse's voice in her head telling her about little Vietnamese kids burned alive as a warning to the villagers from the Viet Cong because they had found an empty wrapper from a candy bar, a can of food, an American can of food, in a village American men were trying to protect while they ate their food from C-ration cans in sweltering, insect ridden heat, just as their fathers had at Normandy, in the Philippines, in tank bellies and on fields of French, Belgian, Danish and German farms...

the question still hanging heavy in the air when Rhea Devereaux gave the only honest answer she could to these young people who trusted her: "I don't know."

And then their eyes looking at her, knowing she was treating them as real people, as she continued, "But maybe, maybe if we talk about, come up with some ideas, here and now, this can be the beginning of a changing of it."
The young man with the tousled light brown hair and wide, dark green eyes, looked at her, those eyes wet, not fearing to be wet in front of his classmates, in front of his teacher, slowly nodded his head, and smiled at her.

Learning, questioning, trust: ideas, ideas brought up from hearts, minds, and souls, that is the essence of the classroom, that is the reason for being of schools, transmitting of culture, cultures, widening them, broadening them, refreshing and growing them.

That is the heavy responsibility of the teacher, on this day, Rhea Devereaux, who sat down at her desk and said to the tousled light brown headed boy, "Bobby, you take over. Let's see what kind of brainstorming you can dig out of these guys, let's see where maybe we can make it go."

Bobby swallowed, not food, not drink, but the beginnings of the man he would be, rose to his feet and walked to where Rhea had been standing.

He looked around the room slowly, making eye contact with his classmates one by one. When he spoke, there was that squeak, that cracking, that came with his age, but no one giggled.
"Anyone have any ideas?"
Three hands were raised.
It was a beginning.


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This item is part of historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.

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