Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Soup Kitchens and Life Lessons

image Around the corner from where I live is a soup kitchen that serves lunch and dinner to needy members of our community.  Niagara Falls is a very small community and much of the need is very hidden.  It is not common to see homeless people and yet we know that they exist.  I have tried desperately to get Destruction to own his western and class privilege to no avail.  He has never in his life known real hunger or real need.   In fact, most of the things that he wants whether it be a Nintendo DS or trips to the movies, his father and I are able to provide.

This afternoon he came rushing into the house with a request to join his friends for lunch at the soup kitchen.  Even relative to some of his friends, Destruction has class privilege that he does not yet recognize.  He has two parents that are committed to working hard to provide him and his brother Mayhem with the essentials and a few luxuries in life.  I was stunned to learn that his friends needed to resort to the  soup kitchen for lunch.

My initial reaction when he asked to go to soup kitchen was to say no.  I didn’t want my well fed child to take food away from someone who clearly needed it. To Destruction this was all about hanging out with his friends and having lunch, he did not see the implications of what he was asking.  After a moments pause I decided to let him go.

We can talk to our children about the world and their privilege ad nauseum, however some things really need to be seen in order to be understood.  His father and I gave him money to pay for his lunch and we informed him why people are eating there.  It is my hope, that as he looks at the homeless and the working poor, that he will finally understand that though food has always been easy for him to secure, that for many it is a luxury.

image He can turn away from a meal served at home sure in the knowledge that in a few hours there will be another opportunity to eat.  He can leave food on his plate because he has always known abundance.  His largest worry is whether he will have the will to save up his allowance for a new DS game.  Perhaps, we have given him too much but he is our child and our love for him dictates that we shower him in as many ways as possible.

I am not sure how this will turn out.  I can only hope that this experience will open his eyes to the ways in which he is privileged.  Everything in his life has taught him to expect comfort, in a world that often treats necessities like food and even water in some cases as luxuries. While I certainly do not want this to be a voyeuristic experience for him, he must learn that which he has taken for granted is a desperate need on the part of many.

I know that there are not many parents who believe that teaching privilege is an important message but in our household deconstructing it has become an everyday experience.  We cannot hope to bring about change unless we realize that our sense of entitlement leads to the suffering of millions across the globe.  This lesson will be a lot closer to home for Destruction because it will involve people he sees everyday in our community.  The face of hunger may be hidden but that does not mean that it does not exist even in the most affluent of areas.  We never know anyone’s true circumstances unless we are sharing it with them.