Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fighting Hunger, Serving Others

Throughout the last 9 months, one of the most frustrating things I've encountered is the lack of nutritious food available to those with a limited income. Many times what's affordable are items off a fast food "dollar menu". Those things will keep one from starving, but at what cost to ones health? This food has the potential to create long-term health concerns in the very group which can least afford health care. My personal experience with eating on a limited income has been shocking. Even though I ate less often and was down to eating one meal a day for a couple of months, I actually gained weight because all I could afford was crap......over-processed, empty carbs and food packed with fat.

I started exploring the community garden concept in the hopes that fresh produce could be offered at an affordable price to those who otherwise could not afford it. I have found a couple of community gardens with whom I will try to work, but in the process of my research, I stumbled upon something which has my belly on fire with a passion I haven't felt in a very long time.

I started out to compile a list of companies who donate leftover food at the end of the day to community kitchens and in the process found this amazing organization: One World, Everybody Eats. This non-profit community kitchen operates on the "pay what you can" concept and offers a healthy, organic meal each day. The thing I love about this concept is that NO ONE goes hungry. If one doesn't have the money for a meal, one can sign up to work a shift. Incredible!

So, I have started the journey to form a 501(c)3 and have several grants lined up to apply for once everything is in place. Hopefully, by this time next year "Courtney's Community Kitchen"* will be fully operational and serving those in the OKC metro area. If you're interested in helping, please contact me via the comments on this blog. If you want to find a community kitchen in your area, please click the One World link above!

*The name is pending approval from Courtney's family.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Strengthening my Resolve: My housing "crisis" annihilated by a humbling reminder

I hate to be hot, and more specifically, I can't sleep when I'm hot. Yes, it's true, I wear a sweater almost every day of the year- even in summer, but if I get too warm, I can take it off. The past two days I've been cooking in a kitchen with no AC. It really isn't unbearable, but when it's coupled with my current "living" arrangement, it has had a very bad effect on me.

The next sentence is hard for me to type, but without this bit of fact, this blog won't make as much sense.

I am homeless.

There, it's out in the open, although that statement is a bit misleading because all of my possessions are still in my house, but I don't/can't live there for several reasons and it has basically become a storage unit until I can get rid of most of the things stored there and find a place to move the rest. That's where the crumbling of my resolve comes in. I'm very fortunate to have friends who allow me to crash at their homes but, as with everything else I've learned through this oddessey of unemployment/homelessness/poverty, it's never as simple or as easy as it might seem.

One of the things I dislike the most in this world is asking to stay with someone. I hate feeling as though I'm imposing on my friends and knowing they wouldn't say no even if it were an imposition. Knowing that is the worst. Worse than having no place to stay. Because of that, I think I understand why a person would go to a shelter, sleep in their car or stay on the streets.

Even now, I hate revealing so much about my circumstances because I worry people will try to "fix" things for me or perceive this post as a plea for a handout. Nothing is broken and I've made a conscious choice to commit to a job that is only part-time so I can have time to devote to helping alleviate some of the hunger and poverty in our community (and I promise there's a blog in the near future about some of the new things I've been working on and towards).

Yet lately, I've felt my resolve to live a simpler life slipping. I've been back to work for 2 months and I already find myself trying to find ways to make more money......but why? So I can help more people? So I can send money to my parents to make their retirement totally carefree and easy? So children in underprivileged areas can have potable water?


Sadly, I've been wanting to make more money so I can have more. Specifically, a space of my own......and air conditioning....and wifi......and, and, and. Sheesh!

I know, I know......it's not wrong or bad to want more, but I know it's not going to make me happy and those things will own ME instead of my owning them. And, just when I think I'm going to start sending out my resume to see if there are any high-paying, full-time jobs to be had, I hear an interview that snaps me back to reality.......the reality I know is the path for me at this point in my life.

Hannah and Kevin Salwen, authors of "The Power of Half" were on the second hour of the Diane Rehm Show today. Just as I was feeling sorry for myself and the fact that I don't make enough money to afford to live on my own, this interview comes on and totally kicks my ass and snaps me back to where I need to be. I've heard a few interviews with them and there is always a mixed reaction about the path this family has chosen to take. Take the time to visit their website here and if you're interested in learning more, buy their book.

The heat makes me cranky but, because there are those who can't find relief from the heat and those who can't make the hunger subside, I will strengthen my resolve; continue on this incredible journey and, as my mother says, get glad in the same pants about my life.