As aromas filled the room, the hunger pains hit the pit of my stomach as I stared at the bowl of plain white rice in front of me. We all awed at the others eating pancakes sitting in chairs. One group even sat a table decorated with a white linen cloth and potted flowers eating bacon and maple syrup covered pancakes. Here I was in the largest group in the room, the lower class, sitting in a taped off area on the ground. Could I even imagine this to be my meal everyday? One very small bowl of white rice? Was I strong enough to endure hunger on a daily basis, when for a couple of hours, I already felt the frustration of not being able to eat?
This is my recollection of my first experience participating in a Hunger Banquet. As each corps member walked into our MLK space, we were randomly given a small piece of paper that explained our situations and what class we were in. When all three groups were formed, low, middle, and upper class, it was evident how the world’s wealth was distributed. The group with the most wealth was indeed the smallest group of three, and that’s exactly how the world’s wealth is disproportionally distributed.
That same day I learned that some corps members have dealt with and are dealing with that disproportional distribution of wealth. The stories that were told were all heart felt from being homeless after a home fire, to the hunger felt after Hurricane Katrina. Everyone who knows me understands that I can’t handle all the emotion that comes with struggles and I cried beginning to end as people shared their experiences with poverty and hunger.
What I wasn’t able to do was share my experiences of poverty. I moved to America at the age of five with my father, stepmother, and their three children. I did not understand what I was leaving behind until I revisited my home country of Cape Verde at 13 years old to reunite with my mother. My family here in America is not wealthy, we live comfortably but that comes with a lot of physical labor on a daily basis. However, I never realized how fortunate I was until I saw how my own mother and my two half younger siblings were living.
There was no running water and no electricity. The way I showered, ate, slept, and just lived on a daily basis during my visit there taught me to appreciate everything I had here in the U.S. This shouldn’t down play other situations here in America because there are homeless families and hungry children everywhere; what we do need to do is appreciate what we have even if its only that small bowl of rice my group was given to eat. Somewhere out there, a child or family, has absolutely nothing to eat.