Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.
After reading a particular article in The Arizona Republic regarding hunger in our communities, I was impressed by the effort of so many people to offer assistance and aid to those suffering from the fallout of the pandemic. We are reminded constantly about homelessness, evictions from places of comfort, and loss of the ability to earn a livelihood, but the stark reality of hunger seems to overshadow these difficulties.
What makes this effort more prominent? I am not quite sure. After all, I know we have, over time, helped the local food banks with donations of money and food. During the period when we are able to gather in the Chapel, we brought food items to each service for that express purpose. Still, there was something about this remarkable accomplishment that just grabbed my attention.
Hunger controls our desire to be who we are as we attempt to find some comfort in the shadow of despair. We cannot think, we cannot maneuver, we cannot function in a meaningful way. Eventually, we wither and, in some cases, perish as we wander into an aimless venture of nothingness.
The article I am referring to appeared on Jan. 3, 2021: “Help keep this community fridge stocked for those in need.” Grassroots group Mutual Aid Phoenix set up a community fridge at Xanadu Coffee Company on 7th Street in Phoenix. It is a community effort to “address food insecurity.”
So, after breakfast on Sunday morning, Sandi and I went to a supermarket and purchased food items, both perishable and non. When we finished, we looked at each other and felt as though we were accomplishing something that had meaning. After all, isn’t life about survival. Our faith teaches us the moral imperative that the saving of one life is tantamount to saving the world entire.
Maybe it was the time of the year. Maybe it was a culmination of all the frustrations that have been experienced this past year. After all, it was not the first time we helped others in need. Yet, it felt different.
People come from all corners of our community to take what is needed. No questions asked, no requirement of proof of need. One thing is sure, more is needed both in resources as well as volunteers. This is true of all food banks throughout the city. It is also true of all charities that seek help as they endeavor to relieve the pain and suffering with a kind word or a kind gesture.
The look on people’s faces as they accept the help is worth all the effort. The satisfaction one receives knowing that we make a difference is all the payment we need or want. For us, it is the most meaningful thing we can do as we begin a new year filled with hope in the future as we attempt to discard the past.
The need will remain for some time, maybe forever. The pandemic will not soon be gone. However, each step we take in eliminating both the need and scourge will enable us to remember our value and purpose.
There is so much that needs to be done, but we also understand, as a great Chinese philosopher once remarked, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Perhaps the single step we can all begin with can include giving to others so that they, too, will be able to join in our journey, not just during a pandemic, but always.