A prayer for hungry children

The summer we were married I worked for Interstate Brands, a large commercial baker. Our bakery produced semi load after semi load of bread as well as hot dog and hamburger buns. I’ve now forgotten, but I used to know how many loaves of bread was on a tray and how many steel racks stacked to over my head with trays of bread filled a 48’ semi trailer. The bakery produced bread at a faster pace than the trucks could be loaded, so loading continued through the night when the bread line was shut down and the bakery turned to producing donuts and snack cakes. I worked the day shift and placed trays on racks then moved the racks into position in the huge warehouse awaiting the crews who loaded the trucks. Each rack had a specific destination and was placed in the warehouse accordingly. At the end of each day, there were a few racks of overrun. The bakery produced more bread than was on order for that night’s deliveries. Those racks went straight into the next door “day old” store, where the bread and buns were actually more fresh than you could buy in a retail store the next day. When it came to hamburger and hotdog buns, however, the over run was much greater than bread. Racks and racks of buns were headed for a huge commercial freezer where they were being stockpiled for two big holidays: July 4 and Labor Day. The factory had to produce ahead to meet the demand for those days.

Labor Day is our traditional end of summer holiday, filled with picnics and outings and fun at the lake. It is also our day to honor those whose work supports and sustains our lives. It is a day off for those who have been working so hard to provide the goods and services we need.

Despite the pandemic, some Labor Day celebrations are going on as usual. I know this because I wasn’t thinking about Labor Day when I decided to stop by the grocery store on Friday. Usually I only go to the store once a week, but we needed milk and a couple of other items, so I dashed into the store to pick up a few items. The trip was far from quick. The store was filled with customers filling their carts with buns and burgers and bratwurst. They were picking up sweet corn and watermelons from huge bins. They were lining up, with a slight not to physical distancing, waiting for the checkers. There were plenty of weekend camping trips and plenty of family barbecues planned for the long weekend.

On the other hand, there will be plenty of people for whom the weekend is work as usual. Retail stores are, for the most part, open even though it is a holiday for white collar and government workers. Front line workers are needed regardless of the holiday. There will be plenty of people working today.

Today, however, I am thinking of those who are unemployed. The pandemic has resulted in a lot of people being laid off from jobs. On Thursday the unemployment report showed just shy of 1.2 million people filed first-time claims for jobless benefits last week. They join an estimated 30 million other Americans who are claiming benefits. These staggering statistics don’t reveal the actual number of families who are in crisis because of a lack of jobs. Many of those families are home to children. Unemployment can often begin a cycle that resulted in homelessness and food insecurity.

The National Center on Family Homelessness reports that a staggering 2.5 million children are homeless in our country. That is one in every 30 children and a historic high. One in 30 children has no bed to call their own. They may have a few toys that can be crammed in a backpack, or they may have none.

Not all of them are children of jobless parents. Minimum wage does not provide enough income to make rent and groceries in many communities in our country. About 14 million children in the US are not getting enough to eat.

These numbers are increasing and have been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. Schools have found that feeding children is essential to their mission. Hungry children cannot learn properly. The pandemic, however, means that millions of children are not going to classrooms. There is no delivery of meals over the Internet for distance learners.

On this Labor Day, I pray for the children who are hungry in a world where others have excess.

Great and gracious God, we know that you are with those who suffer. We know that you know of the children where children are not eating enough because the family just cannot afford enough food. We know that you weep with the children who go to bed hungry night after night. Our prayer does not need to remind you of the suffering that is the result of the inability to share.

You, God, are everywhere. The Psalmist declares that there is no place where we can go that you are not present. There are no secrets with you. You know that hunger is more prevalent in the homes of Black and Hispanic children in our country. You know that racial injustice has resulted in food insecurity. You know our guilt when we consume more than we need and when we fail to share with others.

Today we pray that you would give your blessing to those who work to feed hungry children. May they find strength for their work and resources for the need. We pray that you would give your blessing to parents who struggle at two and three jobs and themselves go without enough food so that their children can eat. May their sacrifice be honored in your eyes. We pray that you would give your blessing to the children who are innocent victims of a broken system. May they be seen and heard in the hearts and minds of each of us.

Give us compassion and understanding. Open our eyes to the suffering of others. Renew our call to correct the injustices of our communities.

Bless the children. Today and always.

Amen.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!