—“Crumbs from Your Table,” U2
U2 was among my favorite bands long before Bono became a household name and America’s prophet-in-chief. I was listening to “October” and “Boy” long before “The Joshua Tree” took the nation by storm. Their song “Crumbs From Your Table” from the 2004 release, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb , rings in my ears every time I visit the shantytowns of Swaziland, or the orphanages in Russia, or the streets of Ukraine, where gaunt children haunt the streets alone, in search of a scrap of food. The words echo in every story of a widow who has lived on grass and sticks for more than a month. Those lyrics pierce my heart when I think of the moldy cabbage offered to a young child in exchange for her innocence.
Those words rang in my mind last night after dinner. My wife and I sat down with our five children to a spread of delicacies. I was in a cooking mood, one of my favorite pastimes to relieve stress and enjoy a little of the good life. Our large table was covered by a variety of cheeses I picked up from our local organic grocery store, a mountain of guacamole and chips—and those were just starters. We moved onto baked potatoes as big as my hand and piled with all the trimmings, complemented with barbecued chicken, steak and bratwurst. Dessert wasn’t bad, either.
What struck me was how much food was wasted. We stored some of the leftovers, but I also scraped half-eaten potatoes, mounds of vegetables and scraps of meat and chicken into the trash. As I did, I wondered how many of the world’s poor could survive off of the crumbs left on my table.
America stands in striking contrast to the rest of the world. Our table scraps alone are staggering. How so? The U.S. government estimates that 27 percent of our country’s consumable food ends up in landfills. That’s a pound of food per day for every American family. Supermarkets, restaurants, cafeterias and the average family are all part of this culture of waste.
I don’t think guilt is the solution here, just moderation. I didn’t need to cook all that food last night. Instead, I could have reduced by 5 percent and given the money to charities that feed the poor.
In fact, recovering just 5 percent of that food could feed 4 million people a day. That’s about half the population of Somalia, one of the “hungriest” countries in the world, according to U.N. findings.
The crumbs from our tables.
Bono could have taken his cue from Jesus’ parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man, told in Luke 16. Lazarus is a poor man begging at the door of an unnamed Rich Man. Jesus says Lazarus longs “to eat what fell from the Rich Man’s table.” The context implies that the Rich Man disregarded the distasteful beggar at his gate. Both men die. Lazarus sits with Abraham in heaven while the unnamed Rich Man experiences the scorching torment of hell. The Rich Man cries out from hell to Abraham for relief, but Abraham tells him it’s too late. When the Rich Man begs Abraham to have Lazarus return to earth, to warn the man’s family, Abraham replies, “They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them.”
America has her prophets. I believe Bono is one of those who is calling the Church—and the country—to recognize the vast wealth of food we are squandering, while a poor world sits outside our doorstep, longing for crumbs.
It’s easy to get down on America. We’re a big target, but only one piece of the problem. The race for alternative fuels, increasing global populations and the rising costs of food production also play a part—along with government corruption in many countries that keeps food and provisions from reaching the poor—but the warning for our country, our Church and us as individuals remains. Jesus, Bono and Abraham are all telling us the same thing: Change starts when one “rich man” recognizes and meets the need of a poor man. We are rich. And change can start with us.
Take a couple minutes to reflect on these action steps …
• Food donations to U.S. food banks are down while demand for services is up 20 percent. Commit to buying one to two cans of nonperishable food each week and donating it to a local food pantry. Better yet, stick around and help serve.
• Reduce the amount of food you purchase for dinner and give the difference to a local ministry or international charity feeding the poor. Have your kids participate in the process so they understand the value of living moderately.
• Eat leftovers for lunch at work instead of going out. When you do, pray for those without food today and think about other ways you can help others.
• Contact your church elders or deacons for the names of families in your church who are struggling with food and bills. Invite them to your home for a meal, or anonymously provide them a gift card to a local supermarket.
• Stop throwing away food. When you know something could go bad in your fridge, commit to eating that first.
• Google the remaining ingredients in your pantry to see what recipes need those. (For example, banana bread normally requires brown bananas.)
There are many ways you can share not just the table scraps, but the table itself. Most require creativity and a commitment to recognizing that food consumption has global consequences. By all of us changing in small ways, we can have a tremendous impact on the most pressing needs in our world.
Listen to the prophets—ancient and modern—and I believe we can feed the world. The people around us, and the rest of the world, are looking for a faith worth believing in, one that causes us to turn from our comfort as rich men and women outward to a world in need. Let’s give them something to see. They’re waiting …
Where you live should not decide
Whether you live or whether you die
I’m waiting for the crumbs from your table …
Tom Davis is the President and CEO of Children’s HopeChest, a mission organization bringing God’s hope and love to orphans in Russia and Africa. Tom’s favorite thing in life is being a father and a husband. He and his wife, Emily, have been married for 13 years and have six children. He is the author of several books, including Red Letters (www.hearitfirst.com/RedLetters), and started the Fivefor50 Campaign to help feed, clothe and educate orphans around the world, specifically those children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. He blogs at www.tomdavis.typepad.com.