The first time I ever saw a child begging for food was in Mexico. I was on a car trip going through Monterrey on the way to visit my future in-laws in Mexico City. When we parked the car in front of a restaurant, children immediately surrounded the vehicle. Small children held their hands out, asking for money for food. Each held up little brown palms. Their pleading faces looked into my eyes.
At that time, I didn’t yet speak any Spanish, but I didn’t need a vocabulary beyond English to understand the situation. Their body language spoke of expectations, hope and hunger.
“Don’t worry yourself about this Coit. They’re just after a few pesos.” My soon-to-be husband tried to comfort me. In my heart I knew different. The child we discussed was about the size of a thin eight-year-old. Teeth don’t lie though. He had a mouth full of adult teeth. That put his age at about twelve years.
In Mexico, children dig through trash for food. And, nine years after this road trip, in Mexico City, a beautiful young Indian woman standing on a corner tried to sell her infant. She approached my church friends first, an American couple in Mexico City on a study visa. Bob and Sue felt they couldn’t get the baby over the border when they returned to the U.S. at the end of their class. I wasn’t a good candidate because, at the time we discussed the baby, I was still married, had no visa or citizenship papers, and didn’t feel I was ever going to cross back over the river heading North.
Whatever happened to that beautiful baby? Whatever happened to her desperate mother? I’ll never know.
You want to talk hunger, then let’s discuss Venezuela and Mexico for a while. Even now, years later, I remember each encounter with a hungry person or household as if it happened only yesterday. I’ll never forget those people, the look of hunger in their eyes.
When people wanted to talk to me about hunger in America, it was a nonissue. Hunger in America? Whoever heard of such a thing?
Hunger has been with us in this country since the beginning. Famous American history stories include Pilgrims starving over the first winter in their new home. The stories of Mormons starving when they headed west are just two. These stories are different from segments of our population going to bed hungry because there isn’t enough money for food.
Even though I’m the loudest mouth in the crowd when I talk about hungry people in America, I’ve never seen hungry children begging for food when I park my car outside a store or restaurant.
Somehow, in this country, hungry people keep themselves hidden unless they are in the food pantry or soup kitchen line.
I lived in both of those places. I could talk hunger with you “until the cows come home,” as my grandmother said. But America? “Fuggedaboutit,” as I heard someone say once on a Brooklyn bus tour.
Thank you for reading this blog post. It is an excerpt from “The Ketchup Sandwich Chronicles”. I’ll be posting more stories from this book in the coming days.
I hope you enjoy them. If so, please refer the posts to your favorite social media network.
But, whether you refer them or not, I thank you for reading this story.
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