When a local group met to talk about food insecurity the regional food bank director shared research showing there are 500,000 missed meals in our county each year. The political leader in the room asked one question, “How do food pantries and meal programs avoid duplication, you know, the same people getting served over and over?” The guy from the food bank was infinitely polite in his response but it boiled down to this: Folks, with a gap of 500,000 meals you are a very long way from needing to worry about duplication.
When I think about the meal gap program from the view of 500,000 missed meals I feel overwhelmed and doubt the impact of the free community dinner where I volunteer. We serve about 250 meals a month and give away food that provides another 250 meals. When the need is so much greater, how can I value what we do?
I thought about this when I was rereading Michael Singer’s Untethered Soul this week. When Singer writes about the ultimate experience of spiritual growth he describes it as identifying more with the “flow of pure energy” than with the physical or psychological realm. He goes on to say that identifying more with Spirit does not happen by “reaching for Spirit, but by letting go of the rest.” I can scare myself a little wondering who I will be if I succeed in letting go of the rest.
But just as it’s too soon for my community to worry about duplicating food services, it is too soon for me to worry about who I will become when I identify only with the flow of pure energy.
Yet, neither situation is a cause for despair nor is either one helped by despair. The meal gap is a complex issue related to jobs, schools, and public policy. It is also a simple issue. My organization and others like it provide food to the people right in front of us and we are always looking for more ways to provide more meals. As individuals and small organizations we will burnout if we only focus on the 500,000 missed meals. Instead we have to value every meal we provide, every bag of groceries someone takes home, and every time we bring awareness to the scope and the face of food insecurity in our community.
My journey toward spiritual growth is also complex as my history, community, and culture all pose challenges to it. It is also simple. Or it can be unless the only experience value is the endpoint—identifying with the flow of pure energy 24-7. That view tells me I am always failing. Instead, I choose to focus on what’s right in front of me: the limiting beliefs, the tired stories, and the old habits of hurt that rise up each day. Each time I let go of one of those beliefs, or stories, or habits, in that moment, I feel the flow of pure energy.
When do you question the impact you’re having in your world?
How do you focus on what you can do in the present to address a problem that seems overwhelming in its scope?