TERRE HAUTE —
The prayer fit.
Two Fridays ago, John Etling — agency director for Terre Haute Catholic Charities — offered the prayer, for all inclined, at a lunch served to participants of a project called the Hunger Challenge. Its organizers — the United Way of the Wabash Valley, and Catholic Charities — ask those who volunteer to live for seven days and seven nights on $29.27 worth of groceries. They term the challenge “an exercise in empathy.”
Empathy differs from sympathy. With empathy, you understand another person’s feelings because you’ve experienced the same thing.
For a week, the Hunger Challenge participants experienced a small dose of the difficulties faced by 18,730 people in Vigo County every day. That number includes 1 of every 4 kids in the county. Across west-central Indiana, 41,140 people and 13,480 children live in “food insecurity.” The term means they lack access to a reliable, daily supply of nutritious food. I’m fortunate; I’ve never been in that predicament. Some challenge-takers sitting in the Ryves Youth Center dining hall that day — business people, teachers, principals, health-care staffers, insurance agents, real-estate brokers, television reporters, home renovators, bosses and secretaries — also had never struggled to find their next meal. Some had.
The prayer Etling gave prepared us to see things from the same side. In part, it called on the Lord to “open our eyes that we may see you in all our sisters and brothers. Open our minds that we may understand their hopes and dreams, their sorrows and pain, their longing for you. Open our hearts to give generously of ourselves …” Afterward, Etling asked if we had hopes and dreams. We mulled that question over a lunch identical to those being served across the street at the Catholic Charities soup kitchen. You had to wonder about the hopes and dreams of the folks in those statistics, especially the young.
Two days later, I shopped at a discount grocery with my wife and daughter, and ended up 21 cents under the limit, but not without a humbling glitch. Even with a cellphone calculator, we were 94 cents beyond the maximum when the cashier rang up the bill. We put back two cups of yogurt and three paper sacks to hold it all, watched for the new total on the register, paid and headed out.
The $29.27 figure is the average weekly amount that Vigo County food stamp recipients have to spend on food, as of July totals, according to Feeding America, a nationwide network of hunger-relief agencies such as Catholic Charities. (Food stamps are now referred to as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.) Under complex guidelines, that amount can vary because of changes in the number of people in a household and incomes. Still, for the purposes of the challenge, $29.27 was the fixed grocery budget.
As the project began, I immediately realized amenities I’d taken for granted, starting with Sunday breakfast. Coffee, bold or flavored, was out. So were the amazing pancake creations my wife conjures up. Unable to comprehend one day let alone a whole week without java, I made it a “must-have” on my grocery list and committed $2.79 of my budgeted amount for a bargain can of coffee. I got my caffeine, all right, plus some heartburn.
Instead, on Sunday morning, I went with rice and eggs, a favorite throw-together I learned in college. Back then, my nutritionist — a fellow guitar player who read lots of magazines — explained the dish’s health virtues, which now seem questionable. Anyway, breakfast tasted just fine, but I still missed what I didn’t have. And throughout the week, despite my wife’s help with recipes and experimentation, I thought more deeply about perks of life I’d mindlessly consumed and suddenly did not have. Coffee and cookies at the bookstore and coffee shops. Dining out with family and friends. Snickers bars grabbed while waiting to pay for gas. Diet Pepsi from the office beverage machine.
Finally, though, as my challenge neared its end, I understood those things I missed were special-occasion treats to others. “Needs” now looked like “wants.”
More than once last week, I had people tell me they’d lived in that situation in the past, as a kid, a young adult or a parent.
As I return to my regular routine, I know that others must continue their real struggle. My eyes are more open.
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE —
The prayer fit.
- Local & Bistate
Lane restrictions next week on U.S. 41 at Shelburn
Reputed Mafioso tip triggers new Hoffa body search
OAKLAND TOWNSHIP, Mich. — The FBI saw enough merit in a reputed Mafia captain’s tip to once again break out the digging equipment to search for the remains of former Teamsters union leader Jimmy Hoffa, last seen alive before a lunch meeting with two mobsters nearly 40 years ago.
UPDATE: Parke County homicide victim identified
ROSEDALE — The victim in a Parke County homicide that occurred last week has been identified as Kathryn A. Bays, 55, of Rosedale.
Court lets walk-out fines against House Democrats stand
INDIANAPOLIS — House Democrats who had to pay more than $100,000 in fines after they walked out of the Indiana Statehouse won’t get the help they sought from the Indiana Supreme Court.
Vigo County Jail Log: June 18, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Monday and Tuesday, based on jail records.
Back home again: Items from vaudeville stage and Terre Haute native sent to Historical Society
The staff at the Vigo County Historical Museum are excited about the arrival of priceless items used by Terre Haute-native Rose Fehrenbach and her husband, Edward Pierce, to promote their Vaudeville acts in the early 20th century.
Husband charged in Archer homicide
Terre Haute Police have found local reports of domestic violence between a Terre Haute man and his wife, whose body was discovered wrapped in a tarp and dumped in an Ohio ditch.
National Road panels dedicated
Rewind to the mid-1800s, when the trotting of a horse and buggy on National Road could be heard alongside the voices of people heading west, searching for opportunities.
Pence sets agency priorities
Following a directive from Gov. Mike Pence, state agency heads are reorganizing some of their top priorities to better reflect the first-year governor’s “roadmap for Indiana” plan for improving the state’s economy, infrastructure and health.
Another I-70 traffic snarl: Three injured in two related crashes
Three people were injured Monday afternoon from a pair of crashes on Interstate 70 that temporarily closed the highway and diverted traffic into Terre Haute.
Terre Haute man still hospitalized after scooter/car crash
A Terre Haute man remained hospitalized Monday at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis after his scooter struck a car early Saturday on Wabash Avenue at 25th Street.
Overpass repairs causing Interstate 70 lane restrictions
Repairs to the Frye Road overpass in southeastern Vigo County has caused a restriction to the left lane of Interstate 70 between the 13- and 14-mile markers, about two miles east of the Indiana 46 exit.
Indiana woman condemned for killing at 15 is freed
A woman who was sentenced to death at age 16 for taking part in the torture and murder of a 78-year-old Bible studies teacher was released from an Indiana prison Monday after growing to middle age behind bars.
Grant will let Vigo Library evaluate map collection
The Vigo County Public Library has received a $2,000 grant to evaluate its historic map collection, a library official announced Monday.
Four juveniles caught on elementary school roof; one injured jumping off
Police say a juvenile was lucky to have suffered only a broken leg after jumping from the roof of a Vigo County elementary school – dropping about 30 feet to the ground.
Farmersburg man sentenced after guilty plea in rape case
A Farmersburg man has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to a rape that occurred at his parents’ residence in May 2012.
Still no information being released on Rosedale homicide
No new information was being released Monday afternoon concerning a Rosedale homicide.
Woman condemned for killing at age 15 freed from Rockville prison
INDIANAPOLIS — A woman who was sentenced to death at age 16 for taking part in the torture and murder of a 78-year-old bible studies teacher was released from an Indiana prison today after growing to middle age behind bars.
UPDATE: All lanes of I-70 now open
All lanes of Interstate 70 in Vigo County are now open — as of 4:15 p.m. — after multiple crashes shut down the eastbound lanes temporarily this afternoon.
Quinn signs into law tough fracking regulations
CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation giving the state the nation’s strictest regulations for high-volume oil and gas drilling.
BREAKING: Arrest made in Archer homicide
A Terre Haute man has been arrested and charged with felony murder and altering the scene of a death in the homicide of his wife, Kayla Herchelroath Archer.
Frye Road Overpass work to restrict lanes on I-70
VIGO COUNTY, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Transportation announces the Frye Road Overpass construction will restrict the left lane on Interstate 70 between the 13- and 14-mile marker, beginning June 17. This lane restriction will be in effect for 24 hours a day for about two weeks.
Vigo County Jail Log: June 17, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, based on jail records.
Fathers take time out to spend quality time with children, grandchildren
A big, circular white cloud rose up through the tall atrium as Mike Woods held his 4-year son, Nathan, Sunday at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.
On Friday, hit the park and raise funds for skateboarders
The On-board United Initiative — O.U.I. for short — has scheduled an all-ages fundraising event Friday in honor of national Go Skateboarding Day.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Sentencing law could benefit juveniles
Monica Foster is a longtime public defender who’s been pushing uphill in the legal system for a long time. So, when she says the General Assembly is making progress protecting the rights of the disenfranchised, it’s worth stopping to listen to her.
Mastering the art of Gardening
The Wabash Valley Master Gardeners group gathered over the weekend to marvel at each other’s gardens on its annual garden tour. The event was a chance for master gardeners to showcase their labor of love, meanwhile sharing stories about their plants.
RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS: June 17, 2013
The Vigo County Health Department inspected the following food establishments May 28-31:
Lawn mower fire destroys barn
A lawn mower that caught fire was cited as the cause of a fire that destroyed a single story barn Sunday in the 2000 block of North Chamberlain Street, said Harold Osborn, assistant fire chief of the Lost Creek Township Fire Department.
Wabash Valley residents vie for spot on Wheel of Fortune
Ellen Fujawa of Zionsville wants to be on the popular syndicated Wheel of Fortune game show.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Lane restrictions next week on U.S. 41 at Shelburn