{Part of an on-going series on Community. Read more here.}

Chocolate baking scones

Community is a buzz word. Get a liberal in the White House and everyone starts talking about how “it takes a village.” I know, I know. You’ll be shocked to hear my all-loving liberal heart agrees.

Have you spent time with a child lately? Like a really little, totally needy child? A village doesn’t adequately describe the help needed to keep our young alive. Think of the farmer who grows the veggies, or the checker who rings up those veggies, or the pediatrician who makes sure that child doesn’t die of some weird carrot flu. Now, get more practical: the nurse who helped deliver the kid. The community health worker who put together the lactation campaign that taught the mom how to breast feed. The $8 an hour child care worker who eventually will watch the kid take his first step and nurture him to keep going when the second step lands him flat on his butt. “It takes a village” isn’t liberal commie code for “We are socialists! We should raise our babies together in yurts!” It means community is important to our fundamental well-being.

I’d say it takes a village to create a well-rounded adult, not just a child. (An example otherwise.)

Ginger cake

Community for me often involves food. Perhaps it is my United Methodist roots — those which run deep in casserole-to-celebrate-everything-soil — or that I’ve been able to travel just enough to be truly bothered by hunger. For me, being in community with someone often includes breaking of bread.

Or baking of ginger cakes and orange chocolate scones. Or hosting a community dinner. Or swapping recipes with your neighbor over the back fence. It seems no two people have the exact same view on faith, life, money, sex or politics. But food? We all love food. Perhaps not the same foods — but we can agree that eating a couple times of day? Well, it’s a nice thing to do.

Ginger cake

I listened to this podcast this weekend, as I do most weekends, walking around a lake with Nelson. I wasn’t just shocked by the story of children living in poverty in America. I was hurt. I am hurt. All the patriotic baloney I’ve swallowed over the years sat in the back of my throat as I listened to kids talk about how living in a sketchy motel is “better than the car. Anything is better than living in the car.”

Kids living in cars? I’m not so far removed from the daily grind to think this isn’t happening in America. But 25% of kids are living in poverty? One fourth of our children must miss at least one meal a day because of scarcity?

Aren’t we the nation of Neil Armstrong and Lance Armstrong? We put men on the moon. We cure cancer. We can’t feed our own people? What is going on here, America?

I don’t have any answers. But! I do have a couple of ideas and boundless optimism. To create community is to share with each other. It’s to give, sometimes until it hurts, and to be willing to listen to the same degree. It’s to gather up those around you — in your neighborhood, or say, on your blog — and suggest we have some serious sharing, listening and learning to do. Our country is fractured. We have the choice to sit around and complain about the current state of affairs, or pour our hearts into something that could wrap that break and help it heal to become even stronger.

Chocolate orange scones

Nutrition, hunger and community health are my public health passions. Putting these to work in my new community will involve:

  • finding a food bank where I can volunteer
  • understanding the local gleaning system and see how I can get involved
  • talking about hunger with my friends and family
  • and perhaps more practically, creating a bag of snacks I can give to the growing number of unemployed I see on our city corners

This is what you can do:

  • Define community. What does this word mean to you?
  • Where do you see hunger in your community?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Listen to this podcast

The greatest social movements start with a few boneheaded, optimistic loud mouths willing to give and listen until it hurts. I don’t want to live in a country where so many of our children are hungry from lack of adequate community building. (Because let’s face it, this isn’t about a shortage of food in America. It’s about power.) Wielding my tiny power and my loud mouth — I’m in. Are you?