It was one of the most memorable moments I’d ever enjoyed with my children. No - we weren’t at Disneyland. We weren’t cheering at one of their games. And we weren’t tearing breathlessly into glitzy Christmas gifts.
Instead, we weren’t focusing on ourselves at all. Standing side by side (they were 7 and 10 at the time) in a church hall packed with scores of families, we chanted, “Chicken! Veggies! Soy! Rice!” as we raced against the clock to fill bags with life-saving meals for families in need. In Ghana. In Haiti. In North Korea. We touched them that day, those children whose bloated tummies we see on TV. The ones that make me wince with a blistering combination of pain and compassion.
Which is the very sort of emotions Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) seeks to inspire – and then empower. The nation’s fastest growing charity, FMSC seeks to “feed children hungry in body and spirit.” I was thrilled to learn kids as young as 5 years old could participate with adult supervision. FMSC.org gathers communities together to pack ready-to-cook meals, engineered by scientists to eradicate the ravages of malnutrition.
That day, putting those feelings into action changed my children forever. At the beginning of each hour-and-a-half volunteer packing session, FMSC (a Christian organization that welcomes volunteers from all - or no - faith traditions) shows a video explaining the extreme suffering of children across the world due to hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity. I will never forget how my son turned to me with wide, wet eyes.
“Mom – after all the times you’ve talked to us about poverty, now, I really get it.” (I know. I need a tissue, too.) I love words. But it is actions that truly count.
It’s pretty unglamorous work, really. Volunteers wear hairnets, and you’re guaranteed to break a sweat. But it’s fun. Really fun. Almost better than Disneyland fun. And where else can you find parents, teenagers, kindergartners and grandparents all working together toward the same goal
In an orchestrated assembly line, rocking out to up-tempo tunes as we hustled to pack vacuum-sealed bags of 4 primary ingredients, I enjoyed a blissful camaraderie with my kids that day. True confessions – I struggle when they complain. Such is the downside when children’s bellies are full, clothes are plentiful, vacations are a given. And I want those things for them. I don’t want them to feel guilty – just a little more appreciative.
And on that day - and during the many packing sessions since - my kids learned to empathize with the plight of others. To serve neighbors both near and far. A lesson, I’m certain, that’s wedged a new building block in the architecture of their worldview.
Score one for mom.