What I Learned This Summer

I wanted to blog through my mentoring experience a lot more this summer, but it was not to be. So, I’ll try and sum up some lessons learned from Riding With Ray.

There is more food in our communities than we know what to do with.

Of course I was aware of the vast amount of food we waste. It doesn’t hit home, however, until you see how many pastries a single Starbucks throws out every day. Or how much food from Olive Garden is able to feed the homeless that would otherwise be thrown away. Ray is only tapping into a tiny portion of the food that is thrown out in our community. I am all for urban farming and local foods, but the big box restaurants are not going away any time soon. How about looking at the resources and assets in our communities as part of the solution and a step on the way to food justice?

Anybody can make a huge difference on hunger and poverty in their community.

My friend Ray is the last guy you would consider as a candidate for making a big impact on his community. He’s a disabled vietnam vet with meager means. But he has a big heart and a lot of faith. He’s open to what God wants him to do and willing to follow wherever it leads. Ray single handedly supplies a network of inner city ministries with food from a variety of sources out of his minivan. Ray also ministers to people who need help that he encounters out of the abundance God has placed in his lap.

Ray is not what I would have expected of someone making such an impact on his community. Time and again I find proof that God uses anyone who is willing. And God doesn’t need large organizations, systems and structures to accomplish big things.

Getting started is sometimes the hardest part.

Too often it is easier to stay home and read a book rather than trying to live out what I believe. To be honest we killed a lot of plants this summer. Texas is not hospitable to plants that don’t have a caretaker willing to nurture them through the heat and misery of summer. My thumb still looks pretty black, but just planting is a step. It brought home how little I know and how much work goes into growing your own food. It’s always tempting just to never try because failure seems inevitable. But once you start and taste some of the fruits of your own labor it’s a sweet sweet feeling.

You already have friends in your community.

I am a committed pacifist living next to the world’s largest military installation. My convictions often come into fundamental conflict with the people around me. This has made me pretty reserved when it comes to the friends I have in my community. This summer I realized that even though a lot of the people I met didn’t agree with me, they supported and encouraged me.

I’m sure it feels the same way about food when you are so picky. People get nervous when your lifestyle challenges their assumptions about their own. Nobody likes to hear that there is something wrong with the way they eat or raise their children. What I have found is that people are very open to questioning what they eat, the source of their food and how they could eat a more ethical and sustainable diet.

It was a fruitful summer. Hope yours was too.

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