After last week’s column was published (“Hope’s Daughters”), I received a wonderful email from Shirley Kirkpatrick, the Lindcove writer. She was noting the serendipity between my piece and the great one written by Reggie Ellis called “Harvesting Hope” in last week’s issue. If you missed it, like I might have if Shirley hadn’t written, it’s worth digging that paper out of the recycling pile to read.

Harvesting Hope is a local non-profit started by a Tulare high school teacher, Michael Mendoza. It began as a challenge to his students to think about how they could help their local community, and what emerged was a project to address hunger. Were Hope’s two beautiful daughters, Anger and Courage, involved? I suspect they were at least whispering in the background.

But as you read on, following the story as it unfolds, we see one of Hope’s sisters, Faith, begin to play a role. Another Tulare teacher, Manuel Garcia, who with his wife Catalina owns five acres of grapes in Exeter called “God’s Vineyard,” became the land connection for the student labor pool. Purchased in faith, not expertise, the land had become a burden until the hopes of the students in Harvesting Hope appeared. 

As the dream of the hunger project grew, resources to make it happen appeared. Hope is a pretty powerful incentive to move people, but it’s her other sister, Love, that gets them to open their pocketbooks, dig out their extra irrigation parts, bring in the drilling rig to improve the well.  Even the liability insurance to cover the student workers was donated. I’m going to posit that it was also Love they delivered to the Visalia Emergency Aid Council: 240 lugs of grapes, which were given to more than 1,000 hungry families. 

What is the hope that was manifested in this way? It has many petals. The first one that occurs to me is that people need not starve. I think more of us than just the hungry live with the fear that, in fact, there isn’t enough to go around—not enough food, not enough shelter, not enough water, not enough clothing—even though our thrift stores are drowning in our fashion excesses and our landfills piled high with our kitchen waste and used building materials. In this project I think Hope’s ugly, wicked sister, her shadow Fear, has been overcome.

Another petal is the flip side: that the beautiful food produced by our land, especially the perishable fruits and vegetables, need not go to waste because the fruit is imperfect, the market is bad, and our distribution system is jammed by the economic powers of vertical integration. There is hope for the small landowner/operator, the non-agribusinessman, the fruits of his or her labors also being put to use. The fear that there is no place for these people in the world anymore has also been dented at least, if not defeated.

A third petal is simple agency. There is something every single one of us can do about hunger. We are not helpless. Learning that in itself is a gift of love.

And in carrying out each leg of this project, from recruiting students to give their labor, farmers to give their fruit, volunteers to give their time with the emergency aid efforts, contributors to give their resources, we open up the possibility of learning more about the problem of hunger itself. With that knowledge we give Hope’s daughters, Anger and Courage, another chance to go to work.

There is nothing simple about the road ahead. People need not starve, but our entire food system is built upon the fear that they do. We all live with the fear of being judged as disposable by some other, more powerful segment of the economy and left to starve. We all live with the hope that won’t happen to us, and some of us live with the very real fear that it could. Hope’s sisters, Faith and Love, are all there is to counter her wicked shadow.

Trudy Wischemann is  a sometimes barely hopeful rural advocate who writes. You can send her your faithful thoughts c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit www.trudysnotesfromhome.blogspot.com and leave a comment there.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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