Taking Care of My Own First

As a recent college graduate and soon-to-be graduate student, I get asked frequently what I intend to do with my degree(s) and where I want to work. This is an irksome question for me just because it seems so superficial. It reminds me of the Thanksgiving scene from Across the Universe when Max gets into it with his uncle about what he intends to do with his life and he exclaims across the dining room table, "Why is the question always about what will I do? What will you do? What will he do? Do, do, do, do, do. Why isn't the real question here about who I am?" Who I am has influenced my decision to further my education. It has shaped my career pursuits. But it is not the other way around.

Then there is a second scenario. The scenario where I try to attempt to explain what exactly Food Politics entails. If I am lucky, I am greeted with enthusiasm. If I am relatively fortunate, I will be greeted with polite congratulations with a look that says, "that's a legitimate field of study...?". Most of the time I find myself yammering on as the person stares at me blankly.

In the case of the latter situation, often I will conclude my elevator speech by informing them that it is my hope to one day work for an international hunger relief organization. This is where it really goes downhill for me. I have been told more than once, "you need to take care of your own first." I have not been told this by any heartless, depraved souls. On the contrary, well-meaning and loving people have shared with me this piece of advice, which frankly, hurts me even more.

I am not one to chastise another person's beliefs (at least not openly), but as a follower of Jesus Christ, my allegiance is to the Kingdom of God alone. This allegiance knows no political, cultural or geographical boundaries. I am called as a believer to serve my brothers and sisters in Christ. To clothe the naked, feed the hungry and care for the widow and child. That is who I am.

I am not one to say that poverty is not a serious issue in the United States. Nor will you ever hear me claim that the systems in place in our country to care for the needy are flawless. But for me, the fact of the matter is, those systems exist. If a young mother fears she may not be able to provide for her children, she has options. Our country offers the Women, Infants and Children program. Our government offers its impoverished citizens the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If a person chooses not to jump through the hoops of the American government, there are food pantries, shelters and soup kitchens in many urban, suburban and rural areas. These programs exist.

For that same young mother in Uganda, if you fear for the well-being of your child, your options are slim to none. Government assistance programs? Ha! Food pantries? Not enough to go around. Even assuming there were a chance you could rely on the kindness of strangers to take you in, or feed your children, think about how you would get there. No way in hell will you have a car. You can't ride a bicycle through the pot hole-filled dirt roads with children in tow. Two options remain: public transportation in the form of a 15-passenger van crammed past it's maximum capacity...or you walk.

There is a stark contrast here. I would never refuse assistance to a hungry child in need in my native country. The fact of the matter is, they don't call it "world hunger" for nothing. However, the soul and spirit within me that defines who I am cries out for me to be a voice for those of the most dire of circumstances. So from now on, when it is suggested of me to "take care of my own first." I will reply, that is exactly what I intend to do.


  1. I can very much relate and for the most part I agree. The problem with the poor here is that our society has been built upon the idea of personal responsibility. Ie: the American dream or "God helps those who help themselves". Many of them are not aware of the services our government provides and if they are many are much too proud to take the help. I saw it over and over with families I worked with. Plus the systems we have are continually coming under attack. Recently a bill was passed to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. Now what are these women going to do that cannot afford birth control or can't afford to go to the doctor? Our society needs a reform of the heart and mind, which goes along with your point that we cannot just lookout for ourselves.

    I've totally lost my train of thought so I'll wrap up my rant. Lol. Also I'm disappointed in you! It was Max at the dinner scene, not Jude! ;)

  2. How embarassing!

    The bill concerning Planned Parenthood...well don't even get me started. I would absolutely agree with you that the fact that this program is coming under attack is appalling. And I will continue to support counter-efforts, I'm just tired of hearing that I'm somehow doing my country a disservice by choosing to help others.

    Patriotism is so disturbing sometimes. It's all well and good to want to serve others, but only if serving Americans.I have to believe that the God I worship would not be okay with this.

  3. I agree. I wasn't so much arguing as supplementing. God's love knows no bounds, therefore neither should ours! God loved and helped Jews and Gentiles, the rich and the poor, the outcasts, the untouchables. His love spread from its origins the Middle East to us in the US and somehow Americans think we are more entitled to it than everyone else...then again Americans think that about everything. And the fact of the matter is, most of the people who would accuse you of denying the needs of your countrymen aren't doing anything for their fellow American's themselves.

  4. ^ So true!! God doesn't see nationalities of people differently. He sees His people and He loves them all equally and we are called to help all those in need regardless of where they live. People are in need everywhere in varying degrees, but helping any person in any way you can will make a difference and will also be pleasing to God.