How Do You Respond to Famine?

Yesterday I was at the provincial capital for a meeting and despite the dry season, we feared getting soaked as rain clouds began to gather over the pine tree-lined hills nearby.

Since there is no free lunch (I guess it’s true what they say, there is no such thing as a ‘free lunch’), my friend Grace and I went to a fast food junction for some quick lunch so we could go back to the meeting right away. I have to mention that Grace is married to a farmer and shares his passion for farming despite her demanding job as a school counselor.

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As we were finishing our lunch, three other customers next to us gathered their belongings and left their table, leaving behind an enormous pile of leftovers. A sudden look of dismay crossed Grace’s face as she stared at the half-full plates on the table next to ours. To say that she felt sad would be an understatement. I know it’s wrong to waste food, but only when she told me the people’s situation in our hometown and in the nearby barrios  did I begin to grasp a deeper understanding of her sentiment.

It’s been months since it rained. Farmers all over the country are beginning to experience the ill effects of drought. In Bukidnon, sugarcane farmers are supposed to be planting for the new crop year, but many did not risk it. Those who did saw how badly their crop grew. They looked more like lemongrass than sugarcane. Grace told me her family suspended farm operations, which is why many of their farm workers lost their primary source of income. These workers keep showing up in their doorstep to see when they can get back to work; they no longer have money to buy food. Her husband doesn’t have any job for them for the moment and the best thing he could do is scoop out a few cups of rice from the rice box in their kitchen just to give these men something to eat in the next few days.

Grace’s is not the only family of farmers who suspended operations this dry season. Many others did and many other farm workers keep showing up in the doorsteps of their land lords to beg for jobs, if not for food. It’s that bad.

Sugarcane farm workers harvesting burnt cane manually (photo from farmlandgrab.org)
Sugarcane farm workers harvesting burnt cane manually
(photo from farmlandgrab.org)

We who have jobs, who wake up each morning and reach into the cupboard for something to shove into the microwave oven  for breakfast, drive to work and sit behind the desk all day, can hardly feel the hunger (or maybe I should take time to go to the market myself, do a little chit chat with the vendors or talk the barrio folks).

Grace’s family responds not only by providing temporary relief to their workers but also by teaching their kids not to waste food, to take only what they can finish and not be greedy, and to not leave the table until their plates are empty.

Is there really a problem of food shortage in the country? Or are wasting too much somewhere. This reminds me of today’s gospel, how Jesus reminded His disciples to love and serve one another. If we find too much leftovers in our fridge, maybe we’re not loving and serving one another enough.

“Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” – Mother Teresa

 

I’m glad I ate lunch with Grace that day. I learned a lot. And yes, it rained pretty hard that afternoon. God must really love Bukidnon very much, He can’t allow His people here to starve. We are very blessed indeed. It’s high time to share the blessings.

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