On April 10th, I participated in the Interfaith Youth Core “Better Together” Day. Our CLU Interfaith Allies group put on a “Hunger Banquet” to celebrate the occasion. I originally went to this event because after learning about the founder of the Interfaith Youth Core. – Eboo Patel – I was really interested in learning about how I can get involved in this movement. To be honest, I went to the Hunger Banquet with absolutely no idea of what to expect.
When I first got there, I was given a little slip of paper that stated my new identity for the night. I was Adis, a low class widow and a mother of seven who lived in the the Rift River Valley in Africa – working full time at any small job that would help me feed my children. I was asked to sit on the floor with other individuals who were below the poverty line. Middle class individuals were seated at the fold-able tables and chairs and high class members were seated at a fancy tables with tablecloths, fine dishes, and waiter service. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I “won the lottery” and was asked to move to the high class table. I was served a three course meal – pear and cranberry salad with bread rolls, chicken with squash and jasmine rice, and cheesecake topped with whipped cream and seasonal berries. Needless to say, there was surplus of food for us – most of us let some food go to waste. On the other hand, the middle class people were only allowed to get some rice and beans on paper plates, and the lower class individuals were only given rice and water.
It was hard to watch the other classes eat their “meals” and not feel guilty. [I would like to mention that there was an act of redistribution that took place during dessert. Many of us were full when the cheesecakes came out and we decided to give them to the lower class individuals.] While we ate, there were presentations about the wealth distribution in the world, waste on campus, and many food and farming programs such as Food Share in Ventura County, MANNA Food Bank in Conejo Valley, and Abundant Table/”Farm to School”. I was actually lucky enough to sit across from the Chairperson at MANNA – Holly Saks. She explained to me that I shouldn’t always feel guilty. At first I was taken aback by this statement. But she further explained that if there is a disaster in a third world country and they lose all their shoes, we shouldn’t donate 500 pairs of shoes. If we do, we will put the shoemaker out of business and he will have no way to provide for his family. We have to provide resources for these individuals so that they can rebuild their own lives and strengthen their own economy. It is, however, our job to share our resources and try to eliminate corporate greed. Take out the belief of “other” and stop looking at the poor as “them”. Greet them as neighbors and use this as an opportunity to get out of our own bubbles. “We’re all in this together.” Nonetheless, she still reminded me that community collaboration was key to making a difference.
This experience was very captivating and further motivated me to pursue my interest in the Interfaith Youth Corp, so that I too, can stand up for religious intolerance. The banquet concluded with a beautiful quote from the one and only Nelson Mandela – “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
Class of 2017