Category Archives: Month of Gratitude

Tales of Thanksgiving part 2

A Thanksgiving Tale: The Hunger Cloth

By Roger Thurow

* This article may be reprinted with permission and providing credit to Roger Thurow,

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2012

leo homeNow, in the U.S., I’m reminded of the many food pantries preparing to distribute turkeys and all the fixings to families who otherwise wouldn’t share in our great Thanksgiving tradition, and I think of the many soup kitchens readying meals for those who have no place to eat such a feast. In both Africa and America, I have seen hunger narrow the choices of daily living.

For the smallholder farmers with their meager crop yields: feed my family or sell some of my harvest to pay school fees for my children; feed my family or buy malaria medication; feed my family or repair the hole in my thatched roof.

For those who rely on American food banks and soup kitchens: buy food or pay the rent; buy food or keep my health insurance; buy food or pay the electricity and gas bills.

Hunger, no matter where it is, is an abomination.  It tears at families, communities, societies.  It cheats economic development.  It haunts the conscience.  Or at least it should.

Scenes from my reporting on hunger, be it at home or abroad, are seared in my mind:

In Africa, severely malnourished children clinging to life in emergency feeding tents.  Families struggling to make it through the day on a mere cup of tea.

In America, astonished teachers watching students stuffing their pockets with food at Friday lunch, even when that food was spaghetti, because they didn’t know if there would be much to eat at home over the weekend.  Children so eager to get to school they hopped off the buses on Monday morning and raced through the hallways; they were heading to the cafeteria, for school breakfast, because they hadn’t eaten much since school lunch on Friday.

A common source of hunger, of course, is poverty.  For Africa’s smallholder farmers, it is an absence of essential resources: better quality seeds, micro-doses of fertilizer, financing and agriculture extension advice – the vital ingredients to grow enough food to feed a family for a year.  For families in America, it is an absence of a living wage, a lack of decent paying jobs to afford food security throughout the year.

The solutions are also similar.  They must be long-term, beyond the immediate aid, and include more community input, individual empowerment and innovative education.  The goal is for the farmers of Africa to grow as much nutritionally rich food as they possibly can and for the food insecure in America to be as productive as possible and earn enough to buy their own food.

One more common thread: Efforts to end hunger are under siege by the global financial mess.  In the U.S., both short-term safety nets and long-term solutions are threatened by budget cuts, be they food stamps or women and infant care programs or the White House’s Feed the Future initiative which focuses on improving harvests of smallholder farmers in the developing world.  The mandatory spending cuts that loom at the fiscal cliff will have a disproportionate heavy impact on poverty and hunger programs, which have already been hit in previous budget slashing moves.  Hungry farmers?  Hungry Americans?  The awful oxymoron would be extended, not ended, by such cuts.

At Thanksgiving, we know we can do better.  It is the time to commit to the last hunger season.

Tales of Thanksgiving part 1

A Thanksgiving Tale: The Hunger Cloth

By Roger Thurow

* This article may be reprinted with permission and providing credit to Roger Thurow,

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2012

one acre fund training sessionI often write and speak about the awful oxymoron, “Hungry Farmers.”  How can the smallholder farmers of Africa suffer through an annual hunger season when every morning they rise with one task: grow food for their families?

That these farmers should battle chronic hunger and malnutrition is absurd, obscene and shameful.

But there’s another awful oxymoron that deserves our attention, particularly as we near Thanksgiving and our season of feasts.  Hungry Americans.

How can anyone in this richest country on the planet, home of the mightiest farmers, breadbasket of the world, be hungry?

That millions of households here are deemed “food insecure” – unable, at some point in the year, to afford the next meal – is equally absurd, obscene and shameful.

Leonida Wanyama visits her son in boarding schoolHunger at home and abroad are of the same cloth.  Yes, the depth of the hunger and malnutrition that I have seen in parts of Africa and elsewhere in the developing world is profoundly deeper than I have seen here.  Thanks to a sturdy social safety net, no one starves to death here, as far too many people do every day in the poorer precincts of the world.

But whether in Africa or America, I see the same pain, desperation, guilt and humiliation in the eyes of mothers and fathers.  How will I feed my family?  Where will the next meal come from?  And the same longing and despair in the eyes of the children.

leo hutI think back to one of my first conversations with Leonida Wanyama, who is among the smallholder farmers in western Kenya profiled in my new book, The Last Hunger Season.  With head bowed and voice low, Leonida told me of the bleak Christmas holiday that had just passed; all she was able to offer her family was a pot of boiled bananas.

Thanksgiving P I N S !

Only two tiny flowers on this table. Elegant and Beautiful. This was in Texas. Everybody laughed when I said I take pictures on trips of the what creative people come up with, especially those beautiful ways to honor and celebrate others. Some people like mountains, I like tables settings and hospitality ideas. (I do love the beaches though!) Ask my family! 🙂
“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” -Albert Einstein
Glass containers with candy colored for the season! A favorite….
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds. ~Theodore Roosevelt
Galatians 6:9 Do not get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.

Inspired Design provided these lovely pins for your Thanksgiving inspiration!

Pin. Share. Enjoy. Repeat.

F A L L I N G back

One of the greatest benefits of fall is falling back-back into bed for one extra hour of Sunday sleep. Instead of rolling out of bed and into a pew, I awake, rejuvenated enough to spring forward! Power naps are sweet nectar to an insomniac soul. Sometimes I feel like I’m sleepwalking through life, numb to things, soullessly senseless. I could step outside and see, taste, smell, hear, and touch God’s glory, but without enough RIMs, its the “Zombie Apocalypse.” I’m thankful for falling back. Today is one day a year I get to rest when I feel most restless, and when I fall back, I let God’s grace catch me, cover me, and whisper, “peace be with you.”

Sweet dreams…

A great song to nap to and wake up dancing:

Honoring the Sacrifice of Pearl Harbor Soldiers 71 Years Later

“December 7, 1941–a date which will live in infamy.”

pearl-harbor-mem-dayMillions of American remember listening to these very words across the nation in stores, over radios, and at the movie theater. Upon hearing the broadcast, instead of finishing the film or their shopping list, thousands formed lines to sign up for military service. They didn’t ask [what their country could do for them, but what they could do for their country.] Year after year, for four years, one Christmas after another passed by with empty homes and shoe boxes full of letters. Can the broken heart of a child be healed by an unexpected Christmas letter? Robert Reed gave his life for his country in the early days of World War II. His sacrifice was honored when his widow and son were presented with the Congressional Medal of Honor. Each Christmas, the final decoration Madge Reed hangs on the family’s tree is that medal and rather than being a symbol of honor for young Jimmy Reed, that shining star represents loss, pain and suffering.

front coverThen when least expected, a Christmas miracle turns a final bit of holiday sadness into a joy that the boy has never known. From best-selling author of Stories Behind the Best-Loved Hymns, Ace Collins has crafted a novella that prompts memories of Christmases past and shows the power behind the hope and faith of children, honoring the service of those in uniform even 71 years after the day “which will live in infamy.”

About the Author:

Ace Collins has written more than fifty books including novels Farraday Road, Swope’s Ridgeand Words of the Father, as well as the nonfiction Stories Behind The Best-Loved Songs of Christmas, grAttitudes, and Lassie, A Dog’s Life. His books have become movies and network television specials. He has appeared on Good Morning America, the NBC Nightly News andThe Today Show and has been featured in the Distinguished Lecture Series at the National Archives in Washington D.C. Ace Collins has sold more than 1.5 million books during his career. He lives near Little Rock, AR and you can see more about him on his website, www.acecollins.com.

 

Q&A with Ace Collins on The Christmas Star

Why did you want to write a Christmas novel and why set it in the 1940’s?

Consider what Christmas 1945 must have been like in the United States. For millions of families it was the first time they had been together in years. For hundreds of thousands of men in uniform it was an incredible homecoming. Now think about what the Christmas would have been like for those whose loved ones died during the war. The loneliness they experienced during the war would now be magnified as they watched others experience this reuniting. Thus, because Christmas 1945 was one of the most unique in history and the emotions that accompanied that holiday season were likely running the deepest, it seemed the perfect time to set a novel that focused on the real message of loss, sacrifice and faith.

You are able to capture the time period so vividly. What type of research did you do?

I have long had a fascination with the Depression era and World War II. This was a period when folks were forced to dig deep to survive. So much was asked of people and many had so few resources to answer that call. So my past reading, talking to those who lived through that period and watching a host of documentaries served me well. But to get even a better handle on the time period, I visited specifically with folks who lived in the area where the book is set and gained a knowledge of that local history. I also listened to scores of radio dramas, comedies and variety programs from 1945 to give a feel for slang, pacing, music and the interests of that particular year.

How much of you is in Jimmy Reed’s character?

I don’t see much of Jimmy in me. He is much more wounded than I have ever been. He lost the most important guide in his life and has had to face adult challenges much quicker than I ever did. But I do see Jimmy in a lot of the kids growing up today in single parent homes. These kids are handicapped because they lack the adult mentor they need to provide the compass to properly filter their choices. So while Jimmy might not be me, I have seen him in a thousand other kids.

You successfully write both non-fiction and fiction. Do you have a preference as to which you enjoy more as a writer?

Because of the nature of how I write fiction, it requires the same kind of research as my nonfiction books. And, as I am really just an Arkansas storyteller, my nonfiction books contain a narrative that is much like the style found in one of my novels. In both cases I hope that when a reader finishes my books they feel like they have had a meal with me and I’ve shared the story during our visit. Yet, if I had to choose between the two genres, and thankfully I don’t, I would lean to fiction. The only boundary in fiction is your imagination and to me pulling from my imagination is the ultimate challenge.

Day 30: Tales of Thanksgiving part 2

It has almost been one Month of Gratitude. Here’s one last true tale to top it off!

A Thanksgiving Tale: The Hunger Cloth

By Roger Thurow

* This article may be reprinted with permission and providing credit to Roger Thurow,

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs 2012

leo home

Now, in the U.S., I’m reminded of the many food pantries preparing to distribute turkeys and all the fixings to families who otherwise wouldn’t share in our great Thanksgiving tradition, and I think of the many soup kitchens readying meals for those who have no place to eat such a feast. In both Africa and America, I have seen hunger narrow the choices of daily living.

For the smallholder farmers with their meager crop yields: feed my family or sell some of my harvest to pay school fees for my children; feed my family or buy malaria medication; feed my family or repair the hole in my thatched roof.

For those who rely on American food banks and soup kitchens: buy food or pay the rent; buy food or keep my health insurance; buy food or pay the electricity and gas bills.

Hunger, no matter where it is, is an abomination.  It tears at families, communities, societies.  It cheats economic development.  It haunts the conscience.  Or at least it should.

Scenes from my reporting on hunger, be it at home or abroad, are seared in my mind:

In Africa, severely malnourished children clinging to life in emergency feeding tents.  Families struggling to make it through the day on a mere cup of tea.

In America, astonished teachers watching students stuffing their pockets with food at Friday lunch, even when that food was spaghetti, because they didn’t know if there would be much to eat at home over the weekend.  Children so eager to get to school they hopped off the buses on Monday morning and raced through the hallways; they were heading to the cafeteria, for school breakfast, because they hadn’t eaten much since school lunch on Friday.

A common source of hunger, of course, is poverty.  For Africa’s smallholder farmers, it is an absence of essential resources: better quality seeds, micro-doses of fertilizer, financing and agriculture extension advice – the vital ingredients to grow enough food to feed a family for a year.  For families in America, it is an absence of a living wage, a lack of decent paying jobs to afford food security throughout the year.

The solutions are also similar.  They must be long-term, beyond the immediate aid, and include more community input, individual empowerment and innovative education.  The goal is for the farmers of Africa to grow as much nutritionally rich food as they possibly can and for the food insecure in America to be as productive as possible and earn enough to buy their own food.

One more common thread: Efforts to end hunger are under siege by the global financial mess.  In the U.S., both short-term safety nets and long-term solutions are threatened by budget cuts, be they food stamps or women and infant care programs or the White House’s Feed the Future initiative which focuses on improving harvests of smallholder farmers in the developing world.  The mandatory spending cuts that loom at the fiscal cliff will have a disproportionate heavy impact on poverty and hunger programs, which have already been hit in previous budget slashing moves.  Hungry farmers?  Hungry Americans?  The awful oxymoron would be extended, not ended, by such cuts.

At Thanksgiving, we know we can do better.  It is the time to commit to the last hunger season.