The idea of thousands of human beings dying each day from hunger and hunger-related diseases is beyond my immediate comprehension. The numbers are too big and the problem seemingly too immense to spend much time contemplating. Sometimes thinking about the issue of hunger in our world is better done in relation to things in our lives that are more familiar to us.
So drawing upon a talk that I heard the other day, I decided to pose the following “What If?” scenario to think about. Disregard the plausibility or lack of technical accuracy; just imagine.
What if, on this past Sunday as millions of travelers began making their way back home after the Thanksgiving feast, a crisis emerged in our air traffic system. Without controllers’ ability to adequately see it coming, a “glitch” in the system quite suddenly threatened the air safety of all the aircraft currently en route to their destinations. After repeated attempts nation-wide to fix the problem, the air control management reports that there is nothing that can be done, and among the hundreds of flights in the air, some are bound to crash, either because they have no flight visibility or because they cannot be cleared to land anywhere before fuel is used up or they suffer mid-air collision. In fact, the sobering estimate is that thousands may die, that 25,000 people will perish on this day of unprecedented loss.
What would you do? What would WE do? Surely, the country would spare no expense or effort in order to create a strategy that would carefully, methodically bring those planes down without tragedy. No expenditure of resources would be spared. (If we doubt that, all we need to do is look back a few months when the U.S. government was willing to pour hundreds of billions of dollars into an economic tragedy brought on not by an unintended “glitch” but by outright greed and malfeasance.) In short, we would do anything to prevent the disaster, and if the government did not act quickly enough each of us would be on our cell phones, at our computers, or even out in the streets to protest and demand moral action. We simply would not accept the pending death and destruction.
If the reaction I’ve described above is at all realistic, then why is it so difficult for us to react to the equivalent of 60 airliners a day crashing to earth, destroying lives and property and promise for the future? If we can spend billions of dollars in this country alone to bail out mismanaged banks and fund extravagant bonuses on Wall Street, how can we remain so unmoved? Is this really who we are and what we are all about, or have we simply shielded ourselves from the enormity of the truth and grown afraid of the “disease” that might infect our hearts if we acknowledge who we have become?
Is the problem of hunger too big? I guess the answer is dependent upon our priorities. But 60 airliners are in the air today, destined to crash to the earth, and those aboard wonder how important that is to you and me waiting below. What would you do?