Last summer, I had the amazing opportunity to conduct HIV/Aids research in Ethiopia. It was two months filled with tears of joy and pain, little sunshine and lots of rain. Seriously though, as I boarded the plane, I was saddened thinking about the host of hearts I left behind—most of which were longing for a better life. As I ascended, I prayed and asked how I could help, how I could best serve those I was leaving behind. The only thing that kept coming to mind was meeting their basic needs. As I have traveled across the United States and around the globe, I have found that there is one common factor amongst human kind: the need to eat. Regardless of one’s dietary denomination, be it pescatarian, vegetarian, carnivore, or omnivore, I guarantee one thing—hunger will happen. Fortunately, for many people, when hunger happens they are able to meet that need. Unfortunately, for many others, hunger and the challenges thereof are daily reminders of their sorrowful plight in life.
As with most of my American friends, I have never known hunger to the magnitude that many of my international friends have known and still know. Often times, I will look at my lunch and my heart will cry out, “NOT CHICKEN AGAIN!” This thought soon fades, and I am immediately prompted to remember the faces and bellies of those who I have lived life with that would give their all to have chicken for the first time, let alone three times in a week. Chicken...again. Oh what a first-world problem to have!
For the sake of brevity, let me get to my point. People need to eat. Long story short, I want to be a part of helping people eat. Traveling across the world helped me to realize how important it is to have one’s basic needs met. In order to begin the movement for meeting the basic needs of the people, I decided to start the momentum in my own front yard. My friends and I began a community garden in East Point.
Starting the community garden meant I had to rely on the resourcefulness of the community around me. Thus, I learned a lesson in humility in that no movement is started by the efforts of a solo entity: it takes a collective. Once all the necessary tools and resources were gathered, we built planters, filled them with soil and compost, and planted the seedlings.
In order for the plants to grow, it took water, sunlight, and delicate care. After weeks of water, sunlight, and delicate care those tiny seeds grew into larger plants and then finally produced fruit! With the literal fruit of our labor, we were able to share our crops and feed both the neighbors and ourselves. As a group, we were all encouraged to know that with initiative fueled by the love for God and our neighbors, we could be a part of meeting the basic needs of others.
This time spent with friends and neighbors proved to be priceless and the hard work that we put into it was more than rewarding. My personal goal is to replicate this in other neighborhoods and internationally. By meeting the needs of others, particularly by planting the community garden, I was able to see the bigger picture. I was able to see and understand how God cares for and loves me. The way the plants grew—through love, nurturing, sometimes pruning, and by the provision of nutrients—is the same way in which I grow. Through love, nurturing, pruning, and providing nutrients, God has and will continue to till my soil and cultivate my relationship with him. What a lesson. What a Father. Let’s eat! Amen.