Twenty years ago Gwen Carr, then president of Women of the ELCA, addressed our Alaska group. She spoke not just as a gifted Lutheran woman elected to an influential office but as an African-American mother of a teenage son. She shared with her audience of white or Inupiat (Eskimo) women the challenges and fears of raising a teenage African-American boy in urban America. My Caucasian son was a few years older than her boy. I had watched clerks eye him suspiciously just because he was a teenager. I had berated clerks who skipped him entirely when he waited to pay, as if money from a teen was not as valuable as that coming from the older customers. I never had to fear, though, that he would be harassed or suspected by police because of his skin color. His vehicle wouldn’t be stopped without an obvious reason. I didn’t fear he would be harmed while walking down a street in our neighborhood. Listening to President Gwen was an eye-opener to us.
This week I watched another eye-opener, A Place at the Table, a 2012 film about hunger in America. It raises many questions. How can we accept the fact that 50 million Americans—1 in 4 children—don’t know where their next meal is coming from? How can we expect children to learn well in school when they are hungry or when they have been deprived of adequate nutrition in their pre-school years? Why do corn, bean, wheat and rice farmers receive government subsidies for their crops, but those who raise fruits and vegetables do not? How can we make fresh fruits and vegetables available to those who do not live close to large supermarkets? How can all workers afford housing and nutritious food?
All of these issues, problems and injustices certainly give us many places to be advocates. Bread for the World gives us ways to address hunger, farm policies and nutrition for the 1000 days of pregnancy and early life. Lutheran Immigration and Refuge Service informs us about refugees, immigration policy and resettlement programs. The ELCA has links and resources for working with government entities.
Which statistic or story speaks to you today? What will you do today to bring more justice to our world? I will encourage several to see A Place at the Table when it is shown again at our local theater this evening.
Phyllis Rude is serving a second term on the churchwide executive board. She writes from Anchorage, Alaska.
Photo by Richard North. Used with permission.