Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Have You Ever Been Hungry?

I'm feeling pretty feverish about the increasing number of homeless people I'm seeing on the streets of Seattle. There's this guy near my neighborhood who is now going around barefoot and it breaks my heart. I know he's mentally ill and I consulted my cousin Suz, a police officer who worked in social services, about how I could help.

She suggested I try and hand him a pair of socks and I did that yesterday. He told me to go away. I left the socks and I'm now carrying a few spare pair in my bag. It's not much, but it's something.

I know many people who are on the streets struggle with addiction. They've made bad choices and now they're screwed. They're panhandling for booze or drugs, but I am seeing more people who look like they've been tossed out of the middle class and are now toting their lives on their backs. And I want to help. I just am not sure how to help.

I've been on the board of the U-District Food Bank for four years and in that short time, we've seen the number of working families who seek help rise significantly. The economy continues to suck and we're now seeing stories about class warfare. I'm currently in the "haves" camp, not the have-nots, but I've been poor before.

My parents were both alcoholics and my mother left me and my brother and sister when I was 8. My father was this pie-in-the-sky guy who tried to spin our sad circumstances: So what if we don't have a fridge kids! We'll just keep the milk outside. Hey! Who wants breakfast for dinner? (Not again?)

BK always took pride in never letting us go hungry, but there were plenty of lean times. I learned to cook when I was 8 as a matter of sheer survival.

Maybe I feel so strongly about the issue of hunger because I've been there. Just two years ago, my husband and I both lost our steady paychecks. We scrambled to pay our bills. We talked about moving in with my father-in-law. I went from spending $30,000 a year on eating out as a restaurant critic to pinching pennies. We ate a lot of rice and beans and at one point, I thought I might have to use the food bank. It was depressing.

Fortunately, we were able to turn things around. We both found work, though our nest egg is in the dumps and there are student loans to pay back. I don't want to dwell on that, though. I consider myself damn lucky. And I want to help those who are less fortunate. Isn't that the duty of every good citizen? But how?

Here's one way. You can buy a ticket to this year's U-District Food Bank auction this Saturday, Oct. 1. Tickets are $75 and the event's fun. There's great food and beer and wine and lots of cool items to bid on. If you cannot make it, please consider making a donation to the food bank. It's easy to do on the Website. I have set up a monthly donation. If that food bank doesn't ring your bell, do something, anything, else. It feels good. And because, damnit, if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. (I told you I was feeling feverish!) OK? OK!