Keepin' Up With the World 2.0


Building the World House: One Person at a Time…

My First Cup of Coffee…

My First Cup of Coffee

Ben Cronin was right.

I will explain what I mean.

When I woke up this morning, I decided that I would go to campus and play some basketball. Well, as I was walking down N. University, I noticed someone near one of the trash cans. I really could not tell what he was doing—I assumed that he was throwing something away. But, he was not—he was examining a bag to see if there was any food in there. And, as many of us do, I looked, kind of felt bad, and just passed him.

But, for some reason, today—I stopped. I turned around to catch him, and I asked a rather obvious question. I asked if he was hungry and needed anything to eat. He looked at me with this blank stare. I thought he was going to decline, but he sighed, took his eyes off of mine, and uttered, “Yes. Yes I am.” So, I told him not to move and ran off and got what I thought he’d need to make it through the rest of the day (no details because this is not about me).

So, I ran to catch him after waiting for the food to be done. I really do not think he expected me to come back because he moved from the spot that he said he would be at. But, I caught him. Then, I turned around and walked back to my car. There was no way that I could go play basketball because I had become a little emotional and overcome with perspective.

Enter Ben Cronin.

After hanging out with the Civil Rights/Metropolitan History Workshop, I stopped by our department’s social hour to say “hi” to everyone and to gather my belongings from my office. A couple of PhD. students, Ben Cronin and Michael Leese, promptly greeted me. And then, in his own special way, Cronin began talking about having perspective. He was asking us, what are we doing as graduate students. He said, and I am paraphrasing, what we do is important, but there are real people suffering out there and we are not doing anything about it. Of course, I agreed with him then and my experience this morning brought his concerns to the fore of my mind.

What are we doing? Yes, what we do is hard work and important, but it is not okay to use that as a justification for not acting to see and change the world around us—no matter how large the action, or how small. I know this seems idealistic, but just imagine—what if each and every one of us could spare one meal a day? Of course I can hear counterarguments, “We are broke. We are struggling. We donate to charity. They don’t deserve it. They should get a job. Etc.” I say—so what? I would rather table that discussion and do something that is more productive. My policy is, I will leave the door open for you when you are ready to join in the productivity.

And I am not talking about revolution, organizing, or a political campaign. I am talking about small actions to alleviate the daily pain—just one meal a day. If enough people committed to such a small action, then I may only have to donate my daily budget to someone else one day out of the year. Right? I would not expect much. Some people may not even read this or take me seriously. And many of us will continue to walk by homeless men and women and not give anything (which I am guilty for as well). But, what if we all gave enough to one person to last them a whole day? I would not expect any of us to take the person out to eat, just make some sort of arrangements and be discrete about it. And of course, we all cannot afford to donate our money when we have our own families to take care of, our own bills to pay. But I know I can budget a day out (not just on Christmas or Thanksgiving) for someone else—just one meal.

Yes, our economy may be struggling right now. I empathize with anyone who has lost a job and their standing in life. But, there is no reason why anyone should not have a roof over their head or have to go hungry in this country—none—especially if we can ‘afford’ to rebuild other countries after military conflicts. If we can afford to bail out bankers, then we can bail out the many individuals who walk the streets, night and day, looking for the scraps of food that we leave in trash cans. I do not care why the person is in their predicament. We have a responsibility, especially us graduate students who claim to be political and stand for something.

Cronin is right. Chelsea Del Rio is right. What are we doing?

Food for the hungry…homes for the homeless. Safety for the most vulnerable. Love for those forgotten and alone.

Austin McCoy


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