Loaves & Fishes pantries and administrative office will be closed Friday, April 19 and Saturday, April 20 in observance of Good Friday and Easter holiday weekend.

 

There Are So Many Stories Waiting To Be Told And We Need To Listen

I have always wanted to serve.  I come by it honestly.  One of my earliest memories is going door to door with my mother for the United Appeal—now the United Way—when I was just three years old.  I would sing a song, do a little dance and my mother would ask for the money. We were a great team! Our family did not have a lot, but we always had enough.  My mother made sure I was aware that we were rich compared to so many. 

After years in broadcasting, I moved into nonprofit thirteen years ago, working in development and outreach.  Over the years, I had often considered working in non-profit. I was on several boards and always enjoyed being able to use my marketing skills to help agencies do good work.  There has always been a question in my mind— What will my legacy be?  I want there to be evidence —positive healthy evidence—of the time I spent on this earth.  I think it is important to try to leave the world, especially my community, better for my having been here.  There is a john Donne quote, “Every man’s death diminishes me for I am involved in mankind.”  I extrapolate that to mean that every person’s life force affects mine.  If someone is hurt or injured or in need, then my life is hurt or injured or lessened in some way. 

I am going to use my energy to help people who do not have enough to eat or have trouble affording a place to live or who do not have enough money to afford basic healthcare. If we are truly concerned about helping people improve their lot in life, then we first need to be sure they have enough to eat.

If we are truly concerned about helping people improve their lot in life, then we first need to be sure they have enough to eat. 

No one can learn a skill or deal with a bad habit or solve problems if they are dealing with hunger and its effects.  It doesn’t really matter to me how they got that way.  Hungry people need to be fed. 

And children…how can children do well in school if they don’t have enough to eat?  How can they grow up to be contributing citizens?  How can their brains develop without receiving good nutrition?  What about our senior citizens? If they are on limited income and have to choose between buying food and paying g rent or buying food and buying medicine, are they eating foods that will keep their blood pressure in check or keep their bones healthy? 

In this glorious New South city that we live in, we have over 365 Fortune 500 companies with offices here; 7 Fortune 500 companies headquartered here, and 130,000 people in Mecklenburg County who live at or below the poverty level. If our business community attracts so many sharp, professional people with so much brainpower, then surely we are smart enough to find a way to end hunger. 

If our business community attracts so many sharp, professional people with so much brainpower, then surely we are smart enough to find a way to end hunger. 

Consider these facts—

  • 1 in 3 single mothers and 1 of 5 children in Mecklenburg County live in poverty. 
  • There are over 4000 CMS students who are homeless.
  • The average class “C” apartment in Charlotte rents for $550/month plus deposit and utilities.  A full-time worker earning $8/hour—$.75 above minimum wage—can afford $275/month rent plus utilities.
  • There is no state or federal law requiring a company to provide healthcare benefits.  Children may be covered by Medicaid or Health Choice and seniors generally have Medicaid or Medicare, but what about the people between 18 and 65? 

I had a great time in television, but I could never go back.  I know too much now about how life really is for many of the people who live here.   There are still so many stories of hardship and adversity that are waiting to be told.  There are people here who are struggling very hard to make life better for themselves and their families.  They need a voice! And we need to listen.  Their stories could be our stories.  People don’t know about what they don’t see, and many people in Charlotte go to work, go to school, run errands and never see poor or homeless people.  I think there are many people who will want to help if we can make them aware of the reality and if we show them how to help.

I believe we make choices that decide whether everyone lives a good life or a few live a great life.  This planet is finite.  We are all in this together.   There is only so much water and air and energy that can be made from the resources that exist here.  Whether we burn these resources up in ten years or ten thousand years, it’s our decision.  Whether a few people live a great life or everyone lives a good life is also up to us.   

Shay Merritt, Advocacy Coordinator for Loaves & Fishes