‘Asteroid’ and ‘Nuke’. These were the two best answers given by elementary school kids in Kitsap County for what might cause a disaster situation in their area. The people asking the questions were two Americorps interns working with a program called ‘Ready Relief’ which is partnered with Children of the Nations. Through the Ready Relief program these kids package up food that they will keep at their school for use in the event of some kind of emergency/natural disaster/nuclear holocaust. If however Halley’s Comet fails to enter earth’s atmosphere and threaten mass murder the food is handed over to kids in any of the six countries in which Children of the Nations works.
Throughout the day the interns and their little army of child labour were joined by a locally famous dog puppet, Harry the Hunger Hound, who inspires great debate everywhere he goes. The Ready Relief staff love to tell a story of how a previous intern was, let’s call it ‘assisting’, Harry in his interaction with the kids when one of them sat up and threatened to burst the make believe bubble by pointing at the intern and shouting, “That’s not the dog, that’s him!” Harry and his intern assistant tried to move along like nothing happened and in the next part of their presentation they gave their cynical friend something to think about. “Hold on”, the boy called out with a thoughtful look on his face, “Okay, that time it was the dog.”
There are two moments in this presentation which inspire. There is the innocent clarity which all these little kids share about what is the right thing to do when you have too much food or food you no longer need. “Should we throw the food away?” With one voice they cry “No!” It is an incredible suggestion, foolish, shocking. “Well, what should we do with it?” “We should give it to other people who don’t have enough food to eat.” Simple. Clear. Obvious. If you’ve got too much, just give the rest away. Then these kids are given an opportunity to watch kids in Sierra Leone eat food which was packaged for them in a previous year. They watch Maseray shy away from the camera. They see Tejan pat Harry the Hunger Hound’s snout. They see Pastor do a little dance in an oversized jumper, laughing and breaking out in to little seated dances of their own. Suddenly I am sitting on a gymnasium floor in Washington State and the world is shrinking all around me and showing off its interconnectedness and I am close to tears at the thought that these little munchkins seated crossed legged in front of me, eyes wide and staring at the screen, are about to make my children, our children, lunch. Children with extra food on their plate feeding children with extra emptiness on theirs. Simple. Clear. Obvious.