Right in front of me

February 03, 2014

Ten years ago, I saw hunger staring at me. It was severe and life threatening, just like those pictures we see on the television commercials at 1 in the morning. It went from two-dimensional to 3-D, from remote to looking at me in the face, from a statistic to a real person. Hundreds were packed into a refugee camp in Africa. Some of the children had bloated stomachs, protruding bones just under their skin, and legs the size of my wrists. It was the kind of scene I often try to turn away from while eating my dinner. After the experience, I knew I had to do something about it. Like any good poet/musician, I came home and wrote a song about it:

“Been to many places. Been around the world.
I’ve never seen anyone like him.
Seen many faces. I’ve had some wounds.
I’ve never felt like I felt for him.

She was maybe seven, but she looked like three.
All skin and bones, she could hardly move.
I tried to look past her, but she stared at me.
I walked away. What did it prove?

He was just a stranger, living on the street.
I’ve never known anyone like him.
He was on the corner, lying at my feet.
I’ve never felt like I felt for him.

Some try to tell me, in time she’ll drift away.
Go tell some people. They don’t care what you say.
Some try to tell me, it’s still the same old song:
‘Can’t do nothing about it,’ even though it’s wrong.

I will never forget him, even though we are apart.
I have him right in front of me. I have him here in my heart.

Came upon a passage, in a famous book.
I found it here, right in front of me.
Said ‘love your neighbor.’
I think it finally, it finally took
Someone right in front of me.”

Maybe someday I can play the song for you. But what I really want is for every United Methodist in Minnesota to try to DO something about the problem of world hunger. Quite frankly, songs and talk about how and why it happens and what we can or can’t do about it means nothing to a hungry child lying in the street.

Long ago, John Wesley proclaimed that the world is our parish. These days, that includes the starving children in Africa and many other places. We have an opportunity to respond significantly to a tremendous need. If we can imagine no malaria, why can’t we imagine no hunger? Please join the Minnesota Conference’s effort to pack 1 million (or more) meals for Feed My Starving Children this year through our "Million Meals Marathon."

As I left the refugee camp in Africa, one little girl held out a trinket to me to take home, as if to say, “Remember me.” I will. I hope you will, too.

Lyndy Zabel is director of missional impact for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

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