Monthly Archives: May 2009

Hunger

All the articles aimed at new parents talk about the piercing quality of a newborn’s cry.  Stress levels rise when we hear a baby crying, and, when it’s your own baby, you will do almost anything to comfort him.  One of the most satisfying things about being a new mother is the ability to meet the need of a hungry infant.  The frantic wails and jerky movements soften and then still as a quiet contentment accompanies a full belly.

I remember crying as I fed my first son, wondering what it must be like for mothers who have nothing to offer their hungry children.  Terrible thought.  It’s one thing to be hungry yourself, quite another to be helpless in the face of a child’s hunger.  In her novel, The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck describes the impact of devastating famine on one family in particular, and the despair of a mother unable to feed her child is forever imprinted on my mind.

It’s horrible to read about that kind of hunger in a novel; it’s paralyzing to think that this is the reality for millions of children around the world.  Nicholas Kristof recently wrote about the hidden hunger in cases of malnutrition in this opinon piece.  For most of us, we have always had plenty, and that kind of fundamental need only exists in our imagination.  But what can we do in the face of the world’s hunger?  I’m not sure.  The reality is overwhelming.  The numbers are staggering.  And the idea of an infant’s desperate cries fading to passive and stony silence because there is no food is appalling.

I am as stuck as you are.  Stuck in a land of abundance and feeling guilty that so many are hungry.  Stuck in my own concerns and unable (or unwilling?) to do more than think of and pray for those in need.  Stuck in my own resignation that says if a problem can’t be solved, it’s too overwhelming to even try.  Mother Teresa said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”  I guess that is a good starting place.  There are so many organizations we can connect with, so many agencies that require our financial and emotional investment to get food and provisions to hungry people.  Our family just signed up to sponsor another child through Compassion International, and I commend that organization to you.  Our family’s small effort means two children won’t go hungry if their parents aren’t able to give them food.  Two children.  It seems like nothing in the face of such incredible need.  But to those two children – it’s the world.

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Good Writing

The trick about reading good books while working on my own craft of writing is coming to terms with the fact that I have such a long way to go.  And sometimes I stumble across such good writing that I have to wonder what in the world I’m doing trying to write.

Right now I’m reading Mary McCarthy’s Memories of a Catholic Girlhood.  I’m only a few chapters in, but I’m already infatuated.  Her characters are described with remarkable insight and twists of phrase that astound me.  My favorite so far:

“She felt, in spite of everything, that she was open to criticism, and, transposing this feeling with a practiced old hand, kept peering into our characters for symptoms of ingratitude.”

Good writing.

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Filed under Book Reviews