Monday, December 1, 2008

doing a little good

i guess at some point we should talk about faith. not religion, per se, but faith. and by that, i don't necessarily even mean faith in God. as Shepherd Book tells Mal in Serenity, "Why, when I talk about faith, do you always assume I'm talking about God? I don't care what you believe in, just believe in it."

for me, i use "faith" in this instance as the code by which we live our lives. your code may be different from mine, and that's fine. but hey, it's my blog. so let's talk about my faith. it's weak, and it crumbles. as i get older, it gets harder for me to know what to do with it. but i'm proud of it, just the same. one of the key elements of my adult faith -- i almost said my "new" faith -- is that it should help others. i like to think that good Christianity should have an active side, that it shouldn't mean church on Sundays and the occasional sawbuck in the collection plate. my faith should mean helping other people.

our church (meaning Misty's and mine) has a food pantry, which helps several families every week. the church is pretty good about giving patrons staples: canned veggies, soups, maybe some rice, some beans, pasta. Misty and i have volunteered there occasionally, but i'll tell you this: it's hard. it's hard to see that need in people and not be moved. our friends Ashley and Benji run the place pretty much every weekend. i don't know how they do it. food pantries run on marginal budgets at best, and they need help. (sloppy, intrusive editor's note: I can't figure out how to write this next part without sounding like I'm patting myself on the back. I'm not trying to do that at all, I swear. So if I come off like a jerk, I'm sorry.) last night, Misty and i hit wal-mart, and i don't really know what came over me. i went in to get a new wallet (mine is worn slap out). but i scooped up canned hams and chopped chicken ... cleared a couple of shelves, as a matter of fact. and wished i could do more. it looked like a lot, sitting in the buggy. but the reality is that there are people in Tuscaloosa who are hungry and homeless -- people who will go without food or shelter this holiday season. the reality is that $60 in canned meats might last a couple of weeks at the food pantry, since it's open only one day a week. after that, they'll need more.

i didn't do much, and that aggravates me. i start thinking about it -- about the state of poverty in Tuscaloosa, in Alabama, in our nation and our world -- and it gets overwhelming. i'm a fat guy. i like to eat. and i feel bad for those who don't have enough money to do that. or to clothe their children. and that's where my faith is stretched to its thinnest point, i think: what can i do, realistically, to help? how do you battle something as global as poverty or hunger? people who are smarter, more globally aware, more conscientious, than me can't even answer that question.

on a global scale? there's not much i can do. nor at a national or state level. but i can help someone have meat to go with their meal. i can help right here, right now. how do you tell someone about God's love when all they can think of is their empty belly? love is a word that's come easily to me in the past. it's an easy word for most people to say. but it's not an easy thing to do, not an easy thing to live up to. but i'm trying.

and i guess that's where my faith is today.