My sister is a single Mom with two young girls. She works two jobs to make ends meet and is on food stamps. What advice should I give her about healthier foods?”
It was a question written on a card at the “Food & Faith: A Matter of Health and Wholeness” event at St. George’s Episcopal Church on May 3, 2014. The question was addressed to the panel of Wendell Berry, Professor Norman Wirzba and Professor Ellen Davis, both Professors who teach at Duke University Divinity School.
I didn’t know much about Wendell Berry before hearing him speak Saturday. I’d read some of his poems and heard a few radio interviews where he talked about our food sources and the changes in farming over the past 60 years. I admit that when I heard the question, I expected that Wendell would espouse the benefits of growing your own food.
Wendell spoke earlier that morning about the need to reduce the steps in getting food to our tables, and how the low wages paid farm workers globally hold them in slavery.
But the answer that Wendell gave to the question on the card spoke volumes not of his knowledge of healthy agriculture, but instead for his love of people.
He spoke softly but unhesitantly, “Well, there aren’t easy answers for this women’s sister. I can’t venture to guess what she is going through and the trials that she is facing. I can’t offer her any advice until I know her better. I need to ask her questions about her health and the health of her little girls. I need to know her living conditions and the jobs she has. I can speculate all day, but until I know her better, I can’t help her with her needs.”
It was plain down home wisdom, but it resonated with me. So often I meet people and I think I have the right answers for how they can turn their life around. It may be healthier eating, a loan of money, or more education. But I don’t really know them. Until I get to know them and have a relationship with them, I won’t know their real needs and what I can do to help.
Until I know someone as my neighbor, I can’t love them.
Blessings, my friend,
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