The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Economics 101 - Soup Kitchen Version

I'm no economist, although I did shuffle my way through a few graduate courses in economics way back when. Indeed, my only vivid memory of any of those economics classes was the day my macroeconomics professor stated that the government should encourage high trade deficits. In his words, "Those other countries give us all those cool Toyotas, and Sony TVs, and BMWs, and Italian suits, and we give them worthless paper (i.e., dollars) in return. Sounds like a good deal to me." I'm still trying to figure out whether he was right or not; although, right or worng, I suppose he's very pleased these days.

Anyway, as you might guess, when I want to get a sense for how the economy's doing, you won't see me pulling out the demand curves or Laffer curves or statistics on personal income and outlays or any other kind of curves or traditional economic indicators. No, I have far more personal and, I believe, reliable data upon which to draw my conclusions. I use two metrics. First, I just count the number of meals we're currently serving at the soup kitchen and compare the total to the totals of previous months and years. And then I compare how tired I am and how many muscles ache at the end of a six-hour soup kitchen shift compared to the previous week.

Now I realize that my indicators don't sound very scientific, compared to those used by economists, but we all know that the intelligence of most economists is highly overrated. Since they never agree with each other, I don't see how all of them can be smart. And so I figure any conclusions I come up with are likely just as valid as theirs.

Now to the nitty-gritty. What's been happening at the Wildwood Soup Kitchen? Exactly the opposite of what I'd like to see. The demand for meals has been increasing, and at a steep rate. It wasn't long ago when 200 meals was a very busy day. Now we're regularly preparing 250 or more meals daily. Last Thursday we served and delivered 254 meals (a record for our Thursday team), and today the total was 250. On some other days this week the totals exceeded 260. These are very large numbers for us. But that's not all. Reinforcing what these numbers seem to represent, is the pain I am currently experiencing. My back and legs muscles, the associated tendons and bones, even my skin, are all aching at unprecedented levels. My day at the soup kitchen, you see, interrupts the calm of my sedentary life and forces me to use body parts that are normally protected from such abuse. Usually the two aspirins I take each Thursday at 1 p.m. do the trick. But not today, and not last week.

And so, after bending my extraordinarily non-scientific mind to focus on these numbers and my aching, aged muscles, I have concluded that the economy is going down the toilet. I really don't think any of those hundreds of billions in stimulus dollars have made their way to Wildwood, Florida; and I suspect they never will. The poor in our area, particularly the working poor, seem to be losing ground and I fear the numbers and my pains will only increase.

Of course, the Wildwood Soup Kitchen doesn't rely on government at any level for anything. We can continue to feed the hungry only because of the generosity of individuals, churches, local businesses, community groups, and service organizations who provide us with the money and the food to do God's work in our community. How fortunate we are to have such generous donors, along with a corps of approximately 150 self-sacrificing volunteers, an ecumenical group from nearly 30 local churches. Last year we served over 62,000 meals and this year we will surely exceed that figure.

As President of our Board of Directors my primary task is to raise money; and so if you happen to experience a sudden urge to donate, you can go directly to our website and donate via PayPal, or you can send a check to our P.O. Box address listed on the website. Every penny counts. And because we have NO paid staff, you can be sure that every one of those pennies will go directly to the work of our ministry.


1 comment:

  1. This is a really great post. My hat is off to you, and to everyone else at Wildwood.

    Reading this reminded me of a story Vivienne sent us a while back, about an experience she had while working at a local food bank. A conversation with a woman there provided her with an “aha moment” – Vivienne realized how easily she could have been in the other woman’s shoes and felt both humbled and grateful. Powerful stuff.

    If you enjoy her story make sure to vote – winning videos will be featured in a Mutual of Omaha tv commercial.

    Hope you like the video. Have a great day.