The Common Good

Party for Your Right to Fight Poverty

This week, a number of "awareness days" fall on the calendar-October 16 was World Food Day, today is International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, October 17-19 are the Millenium Development Group's "Stand Up and Take Action" Days, and December 19 is Bread for the World Sunday.

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At a time when more and more people are falling into poverty and food prices continue to rise, these are all worthy days to observe. But it's a little overwhelming too-from one crisis to the next, without even a moment to ponder how putting these days on a calendar in any way actually addresses the problems. What do I suggest? Have a party.

If you're reading this blog, you probably are already well-informed about issues of hunger and poverty. And you probably do things like write letters to your senators and representatives and donate money. If not, there are plenty of resources out there to help you get started. See, for instance, this Bread for the World resource, or this list of actions to take.

Those of us who do keep up on the issues and routinely call our politicians and send in our checks risk becoming stale, overwhelmed, or self-righteous. A party is the perfect antidote. Nothing elaborate or expensive-just invite a few friends for a meal. Invite someone you normally wouldn't, and expand your fellowship a little. Ask them to bring simple, vegetarian dishes to share, or make the meal yourself.

Simple doesn't have to mean boring or tasteless: Make some rice and beans, cooking the beans with onions, garlic, cumin, and cilantro. Roast some chunks of squash with a little butter and honey, salt and pepper, and have a plate of sliced apples and cheddar cheese. If the food is locally grown, so much the better.

And how does this help people who are struggling to eat even one decent meal a day? Well, it doesn't, directly. But it gives us the energy and strength to keep working, to keep doing the things that will help, to keep reading articles and taking action. Celebration and transformation-both the world's and our own-go together. It isn't a new idea; it's Jubilee, it's the Eucharist.

Quakers don't celebrate a liturgical reenactment of the Lord's Supper, considering all meals to be a form of communion. And even if the ritualized sacrament of Eucharist is important to you, as it is to me, you can still carry this remembrance every time you gather at the table. The Eucharist is, after all, mostly about presence-Jesus' presence with us here in the world and in our suffering, our presence with Jesus in his resurrection and new life, and of course, our presence with each other in both suffering and new life.

So go ahead-feast. Break bread together. Laugh and talk, get to know your neighbors. Overcoming poverty and hunger is never going to be a solitary task, and it shouldn't be a somber one. Consider this simple, shared meal an act of solidarity with all those in the world who don't have enough to eat and yet still share what they have, and do so joyfully.

Monte Peterson is a baker, chef, writer, and mom who recently relocated to Hong Kong with her family.

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