My Mother Rose and Apples

Jewcology's intensive one day "Connecting to the Heart Public Narrative Training" in June helped me formulate the following narrative to share my ideas, emotions and move others to act.

"My mother Rose immigrated to Canada in the 1930's from a shtetl called Checiny. As a child in Poland she was often hungry and malnourished. She did however remember with delight receiving an apple as a special treat at Chanukah. 'Poor mom,' I must have thought. 'I get Gelt, chocolate and all kinds of stuff to help celebrate the Festival of Lights and she just got an apple.' An apple or any nutritious food was something I took for granted as a child.

What did Rose mean when she said she was hungry and malnourished? I was hungry when I had a craving for something sweet like ice cream or when dinner was a little late. Perhaps the closest I get to being 'hungry' today is when I fast at Yom Kippur. But is that really hunger?

Let's fast forward to the present. Rose is a lucid, feisty centenarian living in a world abounding in fresh fruits and vegetables – for some but not all. Sadly because of denture issues she can no longer bite into the flesh of a crisp apple. But Rose never forgot the sweet Chanukah apple or that she was once hungry. Today at the nursing home where she lives she advocates for the other residents. She is angry when others are not treated with dignity, especially at mealtimes when they have difficulty feeding themselves. Rose also cares about the birds she shares her morning carrot muffin with in the garden outside. She's convinced that they prefer muffins over plain bread because they are sweeter. Who am I to disagree?

Rose practiced Baal Tashchit (do not waste) especially with regard to food when I was a child and this embarrassed me. I lived in a culture of abundance so why did she have to worry about wasted food? But now I admire and try to emulate her behavior. I think I finally 'get' the apple story she used to tell me. Perhaps this is why I have a vegetable garden, am a member of a CSA, love to eat and share nutritious food and coordinate a successful food justice program that provides fresh produce for those in need.

One in six people in the US are hungry. Imagine if everyone reading this blog were to donate an apple a day for a month or a year to a local food pantry starting this Rosh Hashanah! By performing this simple act of Tikkun Olam we help reduce hunger in our communities.Better yet, why not teach a person in need to grow their own food? This year as we fast at Yom Kippur let's reflect on the Roses in our communities. Let's say a bracha when we end our fast before we take that first bite of food that nourishes our body and soul. Consider what we can do as individuals and communities to alleviate hunger in our midst this coming New Year and every year!"

(The next Jewcology Narrative Leadership Training takes place at Hazon's Food Conference on August 21st. See Evonne's post for details.)

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