Everywhere you look these days, it seems that the world is filled with struggle and suffering.
I was recently on the world’s largest refugee camp, Dadaab, on the Kenya-Somalia border. As you know, the Horn of Africa is experiencing the region’s worst drought in sixty years. More than 450,000 have trekked for days and weeks across the desert seeking food, water, shelter, and safety in Dabaab. I met women who had buried children who died on the journey and men whose entire livelihoods have been wiped away by the drought.
Here at home, the USDA reported that, for the third consecutive year, 1 in 6 Americans live in households that are food insecure. Among the nearly 49 million Americans facing hunger are more than 16 million children.
For those of us who want to help, it’s tough to know where to start and it’s easy to get discouraged. That’s how I felt during my first years in Congress. I decided early on that I wanted to make ending hunger my number one issue. People thought I was crazy – they didn’t think there was any hope for ending hunger and couldn’t understand why I wanted to spend my time working on it. Their doubts would rub off on me and I began to wonder whether or not I could really make a difference.
Then I had a conversation that totally changed my perspective. I was in India and had a chance to meet Mother Teresa. We were walking through the streets of Calcutta and she was stopping to care for people along the side of the road. I said to her, “What can I possibly do to help end hunger around the world? I can’t even help the hungry people on this street!” Mother Teresa didn’t respond right away. After a few minutes she said, “Tony, you just need to do the thing that’s in front of you. No more, no less.”
I know that many of you are deeply concerned about hungry people here in the US and around the world. If you are looking for ways to help, there are practical, effective steps you can take: contribute to organizations fighting hunger and poverty, donate canned goods to your local food pantry, or even contact your Members of Congress and let them know that you care about these issues.
I hope that Mother Teresa’s words encourage you, just like they encouraged me, to “do the thing that’s in front of you.”
Ambassador Tony Hall represented the people of Dayton, Ohio, for 24 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. He also served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture. Ambassador Hall is the executive director of the Alliance to End Hunger, an organization that engages diverse institutions – corporations, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and universities – in building the will to end hunger at home and abroad. Sodexo is a Founding Member of the Alliance to End Hunger.