I always like visiting John. It’s an easy drive from Guelph to Hamilton, and despite the heavy lifting, it’s a great visit. I get to deliver food and other products to him weekly, which is wonderful, because he almost never has anything left from the stuff I brought him the week before. But that’s why he’s there, to help those who have hardly anything. And that’s why Speroway does what we do, to support him.
I grew up in Africa, and still consider Kenya home. Living there, I saw some of the hopelessness surrounding the issue of food security. No matter how many people were fed, it seemed that even more needed food. It can be numbing, after a while, never seeing any end to the need. In coming back to Canada, the difference was like night and day. But soon, I began to notice things. No mud huts, but people sleeping on the sidewalks. No villages of starving children, but young mothers who are trying to scrape enough together to make sure their children have enough to eat. What about them? When do they eat? Where do they get food? Where do they sleep? It can be easy to separate people in our minds. People “over there” need our help. People “over there” don’t have food, or shelter, or hope. No, Canada does not have the same level of homelessness or food security issues that Kenya does. But people here in Canada do face many struggles.
Many of the people that come to John are the “working poor”. They have jobs, they have an income, they work hard, they keep to their budget, and it’s still not enough. You can’t pick them out of a crowd. You may even know someone, and have no idea of the struggles they face. Most of the time when I arrive, John is encouraging someone. I am always struck by his constant reassurance, mixed with advice. There is no guilt, only support. He has a way of giving the advice to people in a manner that isn’t patronizing or insulting. He just treats everyone the same.
Working for Speroway has allowed me to see that the differences between my two homes aren’t as big as I first thought. Hunger and food security aren’t small problems, in either place. They won’t just be fixed by tossing money at them. They’re too big to be solved overnight, or by one person, or one agency, or even a single country. But maybe I can be a part of the solution. I can work with people like John, who try and meet both physical and emotional needs. I can work with like-minded people who look overseas to see where they can help. We can be part of a group that doesn’t get bogged down by the never-ending need, but rather a group that seeks to give people food, yes, but also those things that are so important they’re not tangible. Things like dignity, love, compassion, encouragement and, above all, hope.