An “Intentional” Community

“Here, we created an intentional community,” says Mandy Cloninger, Executive Director of Trinity Cafe. In a two minute speech at their annual event Stick a Fork in Hunger, Mandy recounts their daily activities and with a grin, she reveals the secret “sauce” in Trinity’s mission. I have to admit, until that moment, I had only a cursory understanding of what I saw in the images posted by my dear friend Shannon, whose work it is to raise awareness and raise funds. It is certainly easy to understand that there are people who need to eat. Anyone can understand that, right? You’d think so.

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Stick a Fork in Hunger, Annual Charity Event

Note that THIS is where this piece changes tone, in case you miss it.

In my last ten years or so on social media, I have noticed a trend that infuriates me. Over and over I read that “they should do something about hunger,” “they should feed and shelter our homeless,” they, them, those people…ad nauseam. When I ask who “they” are, I get a lot of hemming and hawing about the government, the rich, “you know, people who have the money.”

“Really,” I ask. “Who are ‘the people who have the money?'”

***blink, blink***

I already know the answer, anyway. I’ve photographed enough charity events to know where the money comes from and exactly how hard it is for organizations like Trinity to have enough. If you dare to begin this conversation with me, you’d better have your facts straight, and you’d better have a good explanation as to why YOU don’t do anything yourself.

You know what you need to know about feeding the hungry? It is a community responsibility, and it always has been. That means YOU need to look after your neighbors, and not just the ones next door to you. Your neighbors include the small business owners who were devastated by the last recession, the single mom working hard at two jobs to raise three beautiful kids, children who’ve been orphaned and the elderly who cannot afford groceries and medications.

Be careful, as we discuss this topic, not to criticize the people who are actually doing the work you ascribe to they, them and those people. You see, I’ve seen the best. I’ve seen how Chef Benito and his staff focus on managing costs so that they can successfully serve as many as 500 nutritious meals a day, 365 days a year. I’ve seen Mandy and Shannon and their administrative volunteers tirelessly keep the public informed that their efforts are working. I’ve seen men and women whose lights were nearly extinguished by circumstance not only get a good meal, but then find a purpose in helping others.

Most importantly, I’ve seen dignity.

If you really want to do something about hunger, you first have to understand that hunger isn’t just about food. It is also the need for companionship, for kindness, for acceptance, but most of all, it is the need for dignity. THAT is the “secret sauce” at Trinity. Every day, three meals a day: over 500 of them, and every one served with kindness and respect. It is just as much about helping people heal as it is about filling their stomachs.

So, shut up and stop saying they need to fix hunger. They are trying. In the events I photographed this weekend, representatives from AT&T, GTE Financial, local law firms, physicians organizations, wine companies and more all gave personally and through their employers. Now, it’s your turn to roll up your sleeves or get out your checkbook and donateWE have to fix hunger in our community. WE need to stop talking about hunger as though it is not right on our collective doorstep.

By the way, an interesting thing will happen to you while you serve at Trinity, but I’ll let you figure that out for yourselves.