» Changing the Face of Hunger: The Story of How Liberals, Conservatives, Republicans, Democrats, and People of Faith are Joining Forces in a New Movement to Help the Hungry, the Poor, and the Oppressed (Amb. Tony Hall)
I spent a fair chunk of the last week looking for a decent book to focus on during Easter. In one sense of the word, I failed miserably, ending up with nothing in that quest. Part of the blame was due to the fact that I already have a hefty stack of books to complete. The pressure to add to that wasn't exactly making it more likely that I'd pick up something new.
But in another sense, one of the books already on hand has served as a long overdue and welcome read during this Easter season. Tony Hall is a 12-term Congressman from Ohio who was instrumental in the creation of the Congressional Hunger Caucus - along with fellow members of Congress Benjamin Gilman of New York and the late Mickey Leland of Houston. After giving up a career in politics, Hall was named U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agengies for Food and Agriculture in Rome. Issues of hunger and helping the underprivileged throughout the world have been central to Hall's public career and private faith.
Hall devotes a full chapter to his experience meeting Mother Theresa in India, beginning with a memorable message to him:
The first time I met Mother Teresa, she took my left ahnd in hers and said, "I want you to always remember something." Then she used her other hand to deliberately fold each of my five outstretched fingers, one by one, into my palm. With each fold, she said a word: "For ... the ... least ... of ... these. I want you to always think of this, For the least of these."
Throughout the book are examples of people who use "what they know to do something good" ... or, who "show a sermon rather than give a sermon." Although the focus of the book is on larger, national and international problems that might be best suited for a member of Congress or an international agency to deal with, the smaller, more personable examples aren't overlooked:
While I was ambassador in Rome, I often was asked to speak to Italian audiences about my travels. Once, at a high school in the southern region of Molise,. the students asked me what they could do to make the world better.
We can't all go Calcutta," I replied. "Look around you. Your next-door neighbor maybe just lost her mother, or maybe her father just lost jhis job, or maybe there's somebody sick in their damily. They need your attention. They need you to love them. They need you to talk to them. They need a friend.
"Maybe there's an outcast here in the school whom everybody looks down upon or makes fun of. First, don't do that. Then be his friend.
"Somebody around here needs a helping hand, and you can provide it, and oftentimes it's very simple thing. Just look around you, and you'll see it. If you don't see it, then ask. If you just scratch the surface a little bit, you'll find something that you can do. And after a while, if you see problems that are bigger, and you're a leader, and you have the passion, you'll figure out a way to bring in other people and raise money and do whatever needs to be done to address whatever problems you want to address."
Matthew 25:34-40 contains one of Jesus' most compelling lessons, equating our offering of help to "the least of these" with Christ himself. For an Easter season spent looking for a better view of Jesus through some form of literature, Tony Hall's book seems to be a perfect fit.