Are you hungry? I am a little – haven’t had breakfast yet – but I’m not worried because I know I’ll get something to eat within an hour. Why do I ask?
A few thousand years ago, before they changed the name of the midwinter festival, it was a time when rituals were performed to ensure the return of the sun. The death and rebirth of the sun mattered very much to people who feared that if the days didn’t lengthen again, they wouldn’t be able to grow the crops they relied on for their survival.
Now we have fridges, freezers and store cupboards stocked with tasty food, all the year round. Some of us grow some of our own food, but it’s not a matter of survival these days – not here, anyway. It’s ironic, in a way, that in these times of plenty, you see people in the supermarkets with overflowing trolleys, as though they’re stocking up for a siege.
Yet not everyone is so fortunate. Since the World Food Summit in 1996, when governments promised to cut hunger, the number of people suffering from serious undernourishment has increased. The most shocking fact is that, though there is more than enough food in the world to feed us all, a child under five dies from a hunger-related disease every five seconds. Hunger kills far more people than war or terrorism.
We can’t call the human race civilised as long as we allow such things to happen. Some will feel a little better about the situation, if they think about it at all, when they buy the new fund-raising CD, “Do they know it’s Christmas?” I don’t know about you, but I wonder why it’s left to charities to try to feed the hungry.
You might ask, what’s the point of telling you this? What can you do about it? It may not seem much, but writing at least one letter can help. Write to your MP; ask why not enough has been done to feed the 842 million people in the world who don’t have enough to eat, and keep asking.
Forgive me if I’ve put a dampener on your day, or even your Christmas. There’s no reason to feel guilty about enjoying yourself as you tuck into your turkey, or whatever you have for dinner in your house. Just give a little time, and maybe some money too, to try to make a difference. If enough of us try, we might succeed. It’d be a start, anyway.