Friday, November 9, 2012

Not Kidding Ourselves

Will Soll

We had our first meeting about the Food Stamp Challenge in early October; about 15 people were there.  As you'd expect, a lot of different concerns and ideas were expressed. We kept coming back to the limitations of the challenge. It's only a week. We won't have the stigma of using actual stamps to buy our food. We won't feel the myriad economic pressures and personal anxieties that go hand in hand with poverty.    

It's clear that the Food Stamp Challenge will be a real challenge for me. I've been thinking about my budget for the coming week, debating whether onions are worth the nutritional bang for the buck, wondering if bouillon cubes will be a luxury I can afford. Yet I also suspect that the hardest thing about food stamps isn't the food budget. It's having to be on food stamps in the first place.

Why I'm Taking the Challenge

Michael Getty

I am taking the Food Stamp Challenge in the hope of plugging in to the radical core of tzedek, tzedek, tirdof. We're not supposed to just work for social justice, we're supposed to chase after it with everything we've got. But the great irony is that most of the time, I'm too anesthetized by food and drink to engage at that level. Just in preparing for this experience, I've learned of friends and family members are now or have recently been reliant on public assistance. If that's how close food insecurity has gotten to me without my learning first-hand what it feels like, day in and day out, what kind of justice-chaser can I really be?

I am also taking the Food Stamp Challenge as a spiritual practice. Over and over, Jewish liturgy reminds us of truths I am usually too comfortable -- and too satisfied with wholesome food -- to take in. 

We are not in control. We don't know what's going to happen tomorrow or even an hour from now. We don't really have any of the things we might think we have at any given moment -- security, comfort, prosperity. It can all be taken away from us in an instant.

Na'aseh v'nishma, as Exodus tells us. We will do, then we will understand.