Hunger and Hairnets

Originally posted on the website of IFYC, the Interfaith Youth Core.

Hairnets are not a good look. That was something we could all agree upon, the group of us gathered around the meal-packing table measuring rice, pouring beans, and sealing bags shut. Hailing from different traditions–Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian, Sikh, and more–our table’s service team joked around about our lunch-lady look as we packed meals for hungry kids in the Boston area.

This was last year’s Thanksgiving Meal Packing Project, held at Harvard, at which we packed 40,000 meals. It was the third annual event of its kind, and it brought together religious and nonreligious communities from colleges all over the greater Boston area (Tufts, Harvard, Boston University, Boston College, MIT, and more).

Obviously the un-fashionableness of hairnets was not the only thing we agreed upon—the importance of service for the hungry was high on that list as well.

This year, we are continuing that shared passion for service with our fourth annual Thanksgiving Meal Packing Project, happening at Harvard on Sunday, November 24th (more info can be found at our website), where we plan to pack 50,000 meals.

This event, where I roll up my sleeves and don my hairnet, always moves me. It is not just the sight of the boxes of meals piled high at the end, ready to go out and feed families, that does it (though, I admit, it’s pretty exciting). It’s also the deeper significance of the event.

Hunger is a deeply human need. No matter what our religion or worldview, we need to be fed. And this project, organized by humanists and chaplains and people of all religions, recognizes that shared experience. As a Unitarian Universalist, one of my foundational principles is “respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.” Or, as MLK once put it, “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied together into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

This project is a recognition of this. We all hunger, be it for food or for community or for peace. We are all connected by our human experiences. When we come together to pack meals for the hungry, it is a recognition of our connection to them. When we come together from multiple religious and nonreligious traditions to do this, it is a recognition that a passion for service transcends our differences.

So I am looking forward to November 24th—to conversations where I learn about the views of people from other traditions, to measuring out cups of rice, and even to scrunching on my hairnet. We hope you can join us, donate, or even try to start a similar project on your own campus.