Every once in a while I will run into someone in the community that will ask if I am still a hungerfighter. Because it sounds a little like a character from a Marvel comic book I always smile before giving my answer.
For a number of years I had the privilege of working with a great team of people who all considered themselves hungerfighters and were working to eliminate hunger and homelessness in Lee County.
At the Southwest Florida Community Foundation I still have the opportunity to support those efforts but when familiar faces from my past are asking about my hungerfighting days I know they are referring to the boots on the ground work that took up most of my waking hours for years.
Follow up questions most always come in the form of what I miss most about my earlier days in the nonprofit arena and my answer is always the relationships I had with people I was walking alongside as they navigated overcoming an obstacle or need.
When I spent my days interacting directly with families and individuals who were working to move through food insecurity I had the privilege of speaking with them, learning from them and being inspired by their perseverance and hopefulness. A number of the people I met became friends and colleagues while others would be in my life for only a day but they each made a lasting impression.
Leaving the job didn’t signal an end to the issue or my desire to make an impact. If I stay aware and open I see the need in most all the places I frequent in Southwest Florida. By paying attention to those around me I can recognize a family or individual that needs a little extra assistance. There is a look in their eyes that cries out for a way out of their current struggle.
Last Wednesday night I was on my way to meet a group of donors after work. This group of women is particularly focused on helping other women and children in need so I was not surprised that before I made it to the location I received a phone call from someone in the group asking me to meet her in the parking lot before heading into the event. All she said was, “I have someone here I want you to meet” and somehow I just knew what she meant.
As I pulled up to my colleague’s car I saw a woman in need with a stroller. I quickly learned a lot about Isaiah’s mom. I have found that when mothers are trying to feed their babies, they will move quickly to the point. She had just arrived from West Virginia in an attempt to reunite with the children’s father. It was to be a second chance at creating a family that quickly went wrong and former patterns of domestic violence emerged, leaving Isaiah’s mom stranded in a new city with no family, transportation, money or job.
She had spent the previous 48 hours looking for assistance, applying for jobs in her field as an RN and primarily trying to find food for her two young children.
I watched in awe as the friend who had made the call transformed into a compassionate hungerfighter. She stepped in with immediate help to get her through the evening and we made plans for the next few days until Isaiah’s mom’s nursing credentials could arrive and she could get to work and back on her feet.
Watching my friend and meeting Isaiah’s mom reminded me that reaching out to others is not a job, it’s an opportunity in our daily lives. The next time someone asks if I am still a hungerfighter, I will just say yes.
I would love to hear stories from you about times when everyday life has provided you with the opportunity to reach out to someone in need. You can reach me at [email protected].