Today I was reading Leningrad: The Epic Siege of World War II, 1941-1944 by Anna Reid, and I was struck by the horror of being hungry. I won’t get into the details of the book because this isn’t the place or time (I’ll blog about it later), but I will say that during World War II, Germany besieged the Russian city of Leningrad for 900 days. During the first winter, between 500,000 to 750,000 people died mostly due to starvation. That’s half to two-thirds of those people living in the Salt Lake City valley dying in just a few months. Can you even comprehend that? It was awful to read about, and this is a second-person account 70+ years after the fact. How horrifying was it to live through?
“I think that real life is hunger, and the rest a mirage. In the time of famine people revealed themselves, stripped themselves, freed themselves of all trumpery. Some turned out to be marvellous, incomparable heroes, others – scoundrels, villains, murderers, cannibals. There were no half-measures. Everything was real.”
I’ve never gone hungry. Not once. I don’t know what it’s like. I’d like to think that my inner soul would be beautiful and charitable even under the awful burden of starvation, but I have no way of knowing that.
I’m writing this because November, at least for us Americans, is a month of food and Thanksgiving. Are there people you know who are struggling to provide themselves or their families with the basic necessities of life? I don’t believe in forced charity, I believe in love and generosity of spirit. So if this moves you, if knowing that there are people out there—your neighbors, your family, your friends, your acquaintances, even strangers—that need food, do what you can. Food is a year-long necessity, but a body burns more calories in the winter to keep warm, so having enough food is especially important now. Anything helps, even if it’s just a can of soup you set aside for the needy every time you go to the grocery store.
Hunger breaks people down, depriving them of happiness, of the will to go on, to improve, to be better. Food and water and air are the basics of life, and without one of those, we descend into survival mode. It’s not a pretty side of humanity. Help others get to a place where they can really live again…
…And Choose Joy.