LSS: One can.

One can make a difference.
My college roommate and best friend proved that to me years ago. She and her husband moved to West Africa as agricultural missionaries. They stayed for 12 years. I went to visit them for three weeks.
Some kind of light bulb went off in my head during that trip, and I came back a different person. Until I went to Africa, I believed that everybody had an equal shot at success. In my mind back then, if somebody wanted to change their situation, all they needed to do was work harder. If they were in dire straits, then clearly they hadn’t worked hard enough.
I had to go to Africa to figure out that I was wrong.
I’m writing this to save you the trip—though I’d recommend it mightily if you’re so inclined. Strangely enough, I think what really made me change my way of thinking was a very nice French restaurant in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, that my friend and I went to one evening. The meal was close to perfect. Lovely in every way. Fine service. Fine linens. Fine china. Fine fare. Then, we walked out of the restaurant and there were hungry people.
Distended bellies and all.
Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake, but eventually I figured out that I didn’t have to go to Africa to find hungry people.
They may not have distended bellies, but one in eight Louisianans is hungry.
Read that again.
One in eight Louisianans is hungry.
At this point, I could inundate you with hunger statistics Second Harvest Food Bank has compiled. In a nutshell, here’s what the data says, there are lots of hungry people around you. Many of them live at or below the poverty line (which, in 2009, was $10,830 for a single person or $22,050 for a family of four). The average income of the people Second Harvest Food Bank serves barely exceeds $11,000.
If you’ve never experienced hunger, the folks at Second Harvest have created a virtual hunger experience called Hunger 101. They assign you details of a real person and give you a budget. After the bills were paid (and we’re not talking anything frivolous here), the person I was assigned had $14 to spend on food during the week.
If I had $14 a week to spend on food, I’d eat a lot of rice and get much more serious about my gardening. Growing a garden takes time and a lot of variables. I’m pretty certain I’d be hungry for a while— and my husband will tell you that I lose all personal charm when I’m hungry.
My Africa experience taught me that many people—no matter where they are, across the world or across the street—who have $14 a week for food are caught in a place or a cycle that makes escaping very difficult.
These days, I try to recognize my lack of understanding for situations I’ve never known personally. However, I do know that some of the people caught are children. Some are sick. Some lost a job because of circumstances beyond their control. And, some simply made bad choices.
Regardless of the causes or circumstances, Second Harvest Food Bank is trying to make a positive difference in the lives of many. The organization is leading the fight against hunger in South Louisiana through food distribution, advocacy, education and disaster response.
This week in Lafayette, Second Harvest is bringing attention to hunger in a visual way. The project is called Canstruction and is an effort to put a spotlight on hunger by showcasing the creative minds of the area and creating art—with cans.
Lots and lots of cans of food.
But, it all starts with one can.
Design teams will use cans of food to create sculptures that will be on display from June 11-16 at Acadiana Center for the Arts.
All the cans used to create the artwork will be donated to Second Harvest Food Bank to provide emergency food assistance to men, women, children and seniors in southwest Louisiana.
If you’d like to learn more about Canstruction or Second Harvest Food Bank, go to www.no-hunger.org or call 237-7711.
One can does make a difference.