generosity of spirit the courage to care

A long line of volunteers snaked out the door of the Whitehorse Food Bank for a couple of evenings this past week. The lead end of the line would meet the vans, cars and pickups that had fanned out across the community.

A long line of volunteers snaked out the door of the Whitehorse Food Bank for a couple of evenings this past week.

The lead end of the line would meet the vans, cars and pickups that had fanned out across the community. Those vehicles came back loaded by still more people freely offering their time and backs to go door-to-door gathering in filled bags for the In the Spirit of Caring food drive.

A long line of tables outside the main storage area of the food bank received the bags. Other hands emptied them and sorted the literally tonnes of non-perishable foods into designated plastic milk crates. The tables quickly filled.

The flexible line of the bag brigade then shift brown paper bags into all available spaces under the tables. It quickly reformed when this space was exhausted and aimed the steady stream of bags towards available spots on the floor of what is now a long hallway down towards the former bingo hall’s kitchen.

On the tables once the sorters filled a crate with a particular variety of goods, other folk moved them into the permanent storage area. There still more volunteers stocked the high shelves. The whole process was amazingly smooth. A genuine spirit of joy inspired the hall despite the heavy lifting required. Satisfaction will certainly allay the resulting muscle aches and pains.

Underpinning the well organized ecumenical church effort, of course, was the very generous response of thousands of Whitehorse households. The mounds of food received truly signal the optimism surrounding the launch of the Whitehorse Food Bank. Community support is absolutely essential to its success. This food drive has clearly demonstrated that our food bank is off to an excellent start.

Hunger, though, still largely remains a hidden problem in Yukon communities as elsewhere in Canada. The weekday Salvation Army and weekend ecumenical CYO Hall soup kitchens annually provide thousands of hot meals. School breakfast and lunch programs throughout the Yukon try to deal with the reality of hungry children. The Outreach Van, Grace Community Church, Kaushee’s Place, the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre and a host of other groups across our territory also respond in one way or another to the reality of hunger here.

From a Food Banks Canada study we know that 37.1 per cent of food bank clients nationally were under 18 years of age. People with disabilities represent the third-largest group of food bank clients after social assistance recipients and the working poor. Single parent families remain one of the most vulnerable groups as well.

Once we can place a face on hunger we move one step closer to truly addressing the roots of this problem. Clearly the evidence of our community’s generosity of spirit this past week is encouraging. However do we care enough to change an economic system that accepts hunger and inequality as unavoidable consequences of its definition of prosperity?

The current economic crisis offers a real opportunity for reflection. Is a hunger-free Yukon possible? What policies and programs have to be put in place to make this a reality?

This Sunday is Pentecost. Christians celebrate this day when a small, fearful ban of followers of a slain leader found the courage to break their silence and set out to transform their world. Can we find that kind of courage to transform our own?

If you were missed by the ‘In the Spirit of Caring’ food drive you can always drop a bag of non-perishable goods off at the Whitehorse Food Bank at 306 Alexander. A check would certainly be appreciated as well.

Namaste notes

Sunday, May 31—Pentecost Sunday commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the first Apostles. Suggested readings are Acts 2: 1-11 and John 20: 19-23.

Tuesday, June 2—Pope Paul III issues an papal bull condemning the slavery of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and “all other people” in 1537.

Thursday, June 4—International Day of Innocent Child Victims of Aggression “reminds people that throughout the world there are many children suffering from different forms of abuse, and there is an urgent need to protect the rights of children.”

Friday, June 5—World Environment Day 2009 theme is Your Planet Needs You—Unite to Combat Climate Change.

Friday, June 5—Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.