Last week I attended a policy conference in Washington, D.C. that addressed all of the federally funded nutrition programs and the plight of their future. In addition, I met with various legislators. Lots of very tough decisions must be made regarding our country’s budget. Washington is filled with groups and lobbyists all raising their issues and advocating on behalf of their constituency – ranging from the largest industries to the most vulnerable people.
My emotions swing when I make this trip because on one hand I feel as if the common person may not be taken seriously and perhaps be patronized. On the other, I believe that if we don’t speak out on what’s important that legislators won’t be informed for decision-making time. I met with legislators that totally support our cause and others who may not. There’s a saying that goes… “We get comfort from those who agree with us and growth from those who don’t.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that saying because I experienced both and firmly believe in the growth statement. It is so important to be able to listen to the other viewpoint to get full perspective. Not only do I grow but the other person is hopefully also experiencing the same.
No matter what party affiliation you may be, I believe we can agree to one important finding; that is the fact that children, seniors, the disabled and working poor should not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.
The federally funded programs helping these people represent 1.6% of the federal budget. There are much bigger pots to raid. Do we really think balancing or reducing the budget should be done on the backs of the most vulnerable people? The moral test of a society is how it treats the poor and most vulnerable. Our future budgets should reflect these values.
When people do not have money, they do not have power when it comes to federal law making and they do not have a voice. Part of our work at Second Harvest is to be that voice for the voiceless. If we don’t tell their stories, who will?
What a great country we live in that we can actually go to Washington and have the opportunity to speak directly to law makers. That’s certainly not happening in the Middle East or most other parts of this planet. So, we can and do make a difference when we speak out. Through the use of stories from Central Florida it’s possible to capture attention.
As I walked in front of the Capitol and took a photo, just outside of my camera’s view was a homeless man sleeping on a bench covered with a tarp. What a poignant image; the irony of the two images together. That man may as well have been a million miles away; another reminder we have to share his story as well. When I stood in front of the Capitol it was quite imposing with its giant pillars and huge dome with armed guards at every entrance.
But I realized that my time was well worth spent speaking out on behalf of the less fortunate. If you’ve ever doubted whether you can make a difference as one person when it comes to a major issue, remember this saying by Anita Roddick….” If you ever think you’re too small to be effective, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito.”
Thank you for your support of fighting hunger and providing hope here in Central Florida.