This article by our founder and president, Dave Phillips, first appeared in USA Today’s Feeding Our Nation campaign.
The wail of an empty stomach can silence anything but thoughts of food. Dreams are muted. Goals and ambition give way to the desperation of meeting the immediate need for nourishment. Providing urgently needed food offers a solution for the moment. But we can’t stop there.
Food will be consumed, and it does good while it lasts, but it will not last forever. When the food is gone, the situation often remains the same. The widowed mother caring for her children remains a widow. The family who lost an income is still without rent. The child born into poverty is still trapped in the cycle. We have quieted the hunger for a day, maybe even a week, but our help is temporary.
With the food that we bring, we must also bring a close relationship. Relationships hold a promise. Relationships deliver hope.
Compassion is key
The very premise of a relationship is that it is ongoing. This is where real change happens, and each of us has the power and ability to effect change in another’s life by taking an interest.
As we continue to deliver food to the home of a family, we have the opportunity to get to know one another. By deepening relationships to help us understand of the complexity of the situation, we can seek and offer help that we might not have otherwise known was needed: job training, childcare, education, rehabilitation, community, prayer—things we don’t know a family needs without first entering into a relationship.
Human beings were not designed to exist independently of one another. We were not meant to limit our lives and our possibilities by living in isolation. For families trapped in poverty, life may not have permitted looking beyond the demands of immediate needs. We are called to feed our hungry neighbors, but also to come alongside them, know them, and share a perspective previously unseen. New perspectives offer new possibilities.
Hope that lasts
At Children’s Hunger Fund, I’ve seen the value of relationships, as we engage in relational mercy ministry. We work through the neighborhood churches in cities, towns, and villages, which allows the possibility of an ongoing relationship with a family in crisis. Volunteers, pastors and leaders are trained to not only deliver the physical help of food, but also spiritual hope.
Food is vital for survival and we must do all we can to meet that need, yet the intangibles that a relationship brings are just as necessary, because in a relationship there is hope. With whom can you enter into a helping relationship today?