Dry leaves skid across the cracked pavement of the gloomy alley. Shoppers rush by, high heels clicking along, fancy paper bags rattling in the wind. They duck their heads against the cold wind and look forward to the warmth of their homes and a hearty meal.
A child sits and leans against the brick walls of the alley, watching as legs, briefcases and bags whisk past. The chill of the building quickly passes through his thin shirt and spreads through his body; he wraps his arms around himself and huddles into a tight ball. This boy has no home to return to, and dinner will be scraps found in the dumpster.
Imagine yourself in this city, finishing up a satisfying day of shopping. You've found a few pairs of pants that fit perfectly and some early Christmas gifts. You take a short-cut through an alley to get back to the subway station. A small boy, shivering on the side of the street, catches your attention. Are you just another pair of legs that passes this child by, or do you stop and offer him a bagel or a stray apple from your bag?
Most of us have probably been in a situation similar to this plenty of times. And most likely as we rush back to the subway, worrying about the test on Monday that we haven't started studying for, we are just another set of passing legs. And by the time we've returned to campus the sight of that little boy has slipped from our mind as we check Blitz, grab a large cappuccino at the Hop and settle down for a long night of studying.
Here in our little isolated community it is so easy to forget about the world outside Hanover. Hunger and Homelessness Week will remind all of us about the problems that really do exist and the millions of people who have never even experienced anything as "luxurious" as a dorm-room bed or a meal at Food Court. Yes, even in our quaint little Upper Valley, there are those that struggle to find a place to sleep or provide their family with a decent meal. Just ask the staff at the Listen Center in Lebanon, a foundation that supports low-income families by selling inexpensive supplies and providing free meals. Or ask the volunteers at the Tucker Foundation about the people that are cared for through the efforts of Students Fighting Hunger, Woodcrew, Operation Insulation or Habitat for Humanity. No matter how perfect our community may seem, the hardships of hunger and homelessness cross all boundaries.
Internationally, we have witnessed the recent devastating effects of Hurricane Mitch. Tearing through Central America, this storm left over 10,000 people dead and thousands of others searching for food, water and shelter.
It seems so easy to ignore these devastating events and the constant, less-publicized tragedies of starvation and homelessness. We can simply close the newspaper or switch off the television and become reabsorbed in our own lives. We can try to make excuses, saying "people living on the street want to be homeless," or "there's nothing one individual can do to help all those people." But here's my question: Do we really believe the mother digging through a trash can for a meal really wants to be living on the street? Personally, I find it hard to believe that she is satisfied with her position. It is difficult for one individual to make an impact on the immense human population. But when individuals (like the 5,233 on this campus) join together in caring, concern and action, the impact becomes significantly greater.
So let's not just be another set of legs rushing by on the street. Let's stop and think about the incredible opportunities we are given each day and the huge difference we could all make if we just take a look beyond the limited horizon of our sheltered world. Each can of soup, each package of macaroni and cheese and each piece of old clothing thrown into a donation box will help make that difference. From sleeping out on the Green Thursday night to attending the Hunger banquet and donating money, we can all help raise awareness and begin creating solutions to the worldwide problems of hunger and homelessness.