Feeding the Hungry: Paying it Forward

“The only thing I ask in return as that you do the same for someone else when you are in the position to do so.”

That’s what my first spiritual teacher told me, circa 1990, when she offered to feed me. I was a college student, living off campus and without a meal plan. Getting and holding a part-time job in an economically depressed area is tough for an unmotivated nineteen-year-old who thinks the world owes him something, so food was not always easy to come by. My teacher was not flush with cash by any means, but she was a priestess of the mother goddess through and through.

She explained to me that when she was a young adult, she had been in a position where food was hard to come by, and that someone had taken her under their wing and kept starvation at bay. I wasn’t exactly wasting away, but I survived on a lot of ramen. She told me that she would do the same for me as was done for her, with the same injunction attached: feed another person when I have the means and he or she does not.

I’m not the sort of person that jumps at the chance to give to charity: phone calls from good causes get the same brushoff as the ones trying to woo my vote or inform me about an “opportunity.” However, unless my wallet or larder is bare, I will do my very best to keep hunger from the people I know. I don’t have the resources to feed every hungry person in the world, but I have kept my promise, and passed its obligation on three times now.

My relationship with that teacher was volatile and emotional, a partnership both good and bad. Her lesson about connecting with, and feeding, a person in need is one that I will carry with me throughout my life.

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