September 24, 2010
Accompanying Hunger

I’ve recently been endeavoring to eat a mostly raw diet. My body has felt good with this dietary change, and my conscience has, too. I feel good about not eating any animals or animal products. I feel good about loading up on local, organic produce and eating in simple and more basic ways. This is a choice that is good for my health and the health of the planet.

This is also, I know, an incredibly privileged choice. A lot of my friends don’t have the ability to make such choices. The simple fact that I have a wide variety of options about what I eat separates me from them. In El Paso, Texas, just a few blocks from the U.S./Mexico border, I met an inspiring group of people who have decided to bridge that gap.

Annunciation House is an all-volunteer organization that provides shelter and hospitality to undocumented immigrants and refugees at the border. While working for another social justice organization in the area, I often took groups of visitors to Annunciation House, to introduce them to the fairly radical work going on there. Everyone who works at Annunciation House has made a conscious decision to accompany—in the fullest sense of the word—the vulnerable population they serve. This means that Annunciation House does no formal fundraising and no formal solicitation of goods or services; they rely exclusively on spontaneous contributions of food and materials. This also means that the volunteers who commit to spending a year working in the organization and living in the house alongside the refugees, often have no idea what food they’ll be eating next, or when. Every time I’ve been at Annunciation House, I’ve always been served a meal (and asked to help prepare it as well). Food has been offered each time—but sometimes the meals are meager.

Some may argue that this is an inefficient way to manage an organization. Sure: if Ruben Garcia, the director, were to champion large-scale fundraising campaigns, maybe the meals served to the children and families who seek refuge at Annunciation House might be more tantalizing, more substantial. But that would be missing the point. The guiding philosophy of Annunciation House is that only by placing ourselves within poverty—within hunger—can we truly be in solidarity with those who suffer it. Otherwise, we’re separated from them. We’re fed. They’re hungry. Annunciation House eliminates the “Us/Them” factor in poverty and hunger. There, everyone gathers around the same plate, whether it’s empty or full.

Kelsea Habecker

This post was written by Kelsea Habecker. When she’s not living elsewhere, Kelsea Habecker lives, writes, and teaches in Indianapolis. Her book, “Hollow Out,” was published by New Rivers Press.

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