If you don’t know it by now it is about time you did.
I, Hannah Brencher, make the world’s most phenomenal peanut butter and banana sandwiches. My office building is next door to where they shoot the Rachel Ray Show and the producers are practically out the door following the waft of my PB&B sandwich as it shimmies from the confines of its tin foil.
Ok, maybe I am exaggerating. But still, my sandwiches are delectable. Pretty legitimate. Pretty much remarkable and I would share one with you if sandwiches didn’t get so soggy in the mail.
We should probably rename this blog to “Life on the 4 Train” because I am pretty certain that most of my stories develop right there on the 4, while sitting between two perfect strangers as I bask in our commonality of going somewhere together. But every morning last week I encountered some individual who made their way into my subway car, delivered a speech fueled by what label to be as dignity, and then kindly asked people for food. Food specifically. Not money. Not a home. But something small to soothe that rumble that we have all experienced at one point or another.
I see it every single week, every time that I make my way into Manhattan. And it always calls to mind the days when my mom would send me into the city with three sandwiches delicately wrapped inside of my bag. Not sandwiches for me. Sandwiches for less fortunate than I, with tummies that tended growl more fiercely than my own. If I could only thank my mother for one thing in this world it would be the lesson she packed into everyone of those sandwiches that were never for my hands: Don’t do good. Do right.
Last month I began using five of my dollars from my 25-dollar weekly stipend to buy stamps for my love letters (they are still coming! Don’t you worry… Over 150 letters in the works (Yikes)). This month is the start of taking five more dollars and putting it towards a loaf of whole wheat bread and a bag of bananas (potentially switching it up with a classic PB&J). I already have peanut butter. Trust me, peanut butter manages to find its the way to the the topic of my care package lists every time. With my extra supplies I will pack an extra sandwich to carry everywhere that I go.
To be honest, I hesitate to even publish this. I am not attempting to build a pedestal out of love letters and sandwiches, that will never be the case. I am simply tired of a world that can makes us feel like we are helpless and that we should not even try. Someone will scoff at this post, I know that for certain, because the effort of making a sandwich for someone else is so very small. It is not a country ratifying a new law or a peace treaty but it causes the rumble in someone’s stomach to surrender for just a little while. For that reason alone, I would make a sandwich every single day for the rest of my life.
The point of my packing an extra sandwich in the morning is this: If I was hungry, I would want someone to stop and feed me. Not walk by. Not turn the other cheek. Not say “Not my problem.” Because it is my problem. If my neighbor is hungry then it is my problem, just as much as if my own mother were hungry. Mother Teresa, the remarkable individual that she was and is and always will be, has plastered a good quote or two upon my day-to-day life. The problem is not lurking within the big heady words like genocide or malnutrition or terrorism, it is in the fact that we have forgotten that we belong to one another. That my hungry neighbor in Uganda or India is just as important as my hungry neighbor next door.
I could care less if someone ever identifies me as a girl passing out sandwiches to the hungry, I just want the one holding the sandwich to know that it is not an accident. Them & That Sandwich Is Not An Accident. Because, let’s be real, some days we just want to know that someone is thinking about us when they rise in the morning, as they pour their morning coffee, as they take that first hearty sip. I want someone to know that I made that sandwich especially for them, for they are just as important as my best friends and the role models I admire most. That I woke up that morning and I thought specifically about them as I smoothed on the peanut butter and cut up the banana. It is nice to be considered, don’t you agree?
Yes, we all know that I would be perfectly happy toting a dozen morning glory muffins into the United Nations every day to pass out to world leaders in hopes for world peace, but I am not fueled by unsteady idealism. I know these sandwiches will not change anything. Nothing at all really.
I cannot solve world hunger and I would adore shaking the hand of the man or woman who steps up to the challenge. That person will be my best friend. I will throw parties for that individual daily. However, I can make ten of the best peanut butter and banana sandwiches that this city has ever seen and make sure those lunchtime favorites meet the hands of someone who asks. Simple. Ordinary. Entirely Doable.
We can beat ourselves up on a daily basis over the broken world and the ways in which it wont change. We can talk about policies and treaties and petitions, which are all very well and good. But another person dies of hunger every second seconds. In the time it took you to read this post about 60 people died of totally preventable causes rooted in malnutrition. And so where do we start when that is the problem? I don’t really know that but I do know how to make a pretty sweet sandwich. So I’ll just start there…
Side Notes: It works out perfectly that this post should drop during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, a week where ideally we would all sift through the heartbreaking statistics and find faces instead of numbers. But even when we dance into Friday and the week flips to the back of the calendar, hunger will still exist. Bellies will go on rumbling well into the holidays. Please continue to keep the souls of the hungry in your thoughts and prayers as we inch closer to a day defined by gratitude and food. Find a local food bank. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. Eat the leftovers instead of letting them go to waste. Simple. Ordinary. Entirely Doable.
I would love to hear of any ways you are participating in this national awareness week or joining the fight against hunger, in general.