Sunday, April 17, 2011

Soup Kitchen

I once volunteered at a convent for four years, and among other things, I helped out at the soup kitchen.  It's amazing to think that in the US there are people who would go without food were it not for the soup kitchens and food pantries.  An Indian woman who volunteered there could barely believe it.  And she told her friends back in India that there was real poverty in the US.  They absolutely refused to believe her.  Her friends in India were absolutely convinced that EVERYONE in the US was wealthy and well-educated.  This is a country that is sold to the world as a land of opportunity and a democracy--a land of bounty for all.  And yet there are thousands of soup kitchens and shelters throughout the country that aren't even enough to deal with the pressing needs.  Why is that?

The economy is supposedly rebounding, but one of the things that politicians don't talk about is how they fudge the numbers.  In order to get a lower unemployment rating, they kick people off of the unemployment dole.  That obviously isn't a real cure for unemployment.  What other numbers are they fudging simply to make the country look better?  So you end up with this disparity between the image of the US throughout the world, and the truth of what is really going on in this country.  Meanwhile, millions of Americans are really suffering.  And not enough is being done, in part because of this need to project a good image.

So why did I stop doing my part?  I quite liked volunteering at soup kitchen when I did it, for the most part.  Some of the people who went there were just regular, decent people who had fallen on hard times.  There were a few people who were quite rude and hardened.  I tried to always ignore the rudeness and attributed it to the hard lives that they had led.  Many were prostitutes or drug addicts.  Thank God for the soup kitchens and shelters that are able to offer a small plate of hope to people who had been pushed so far down in society.  In a lot of ways, the nuns were more difficult for me to deal with.  They were supposed to know better.  So when they were rude to me, it was much more difficult to deal with.  I guess it just sort of fizzled.  I did it for a time, and then it was time to move on to other things.

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