The wonderful joy we feel in December as we await the coming of the Christ child is not so joyful for the millions of children in the United States who will go hungry this Christmas. In every community in the United States where a county election commission announced the results of last month’s historic elections, children woke up hungry. They spent the day hungry. They went to bed hungry. In fact, more than 8 million children go to bed hungry every night. As many as 17 million children nationwide are affected by food insecurity, a phenomenon defined by experts as inconsistent access to enough nutritious food to live a healthy life. The consequences and costs of child hunger are severe. Research shows that lack of nutrition can permanently alter a child’s brain architecture, stunting intellectual capacity and a child’s ability to learn and interact with others. With hunger comes more frequent sickness and higher healthcare costs not to mention the resulting societal costs later on. Many children will not enjoy a bountiful meal on Christmas day, or any day, and for many, there may be no festivities, no tree, no gifts.
Christian stewards understand the obvious paradox as they celebrate the Incarnation of Christ as an innocent child. Finding comprehensive remedies to hunger in the United States and worldwide is complex, subject to debate, and transcends politics and ideologies. But what is not subject to debate in Catholic social teaching is that Catholics don’t let children go hungry.
Good stewards are motivated by the words of Saint Teresa of Calcutta: “Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” Like the Good Samaritan, good stewards do not avert their eyes from the needs of the littlest ones who suffer in our own communities and neighborhoods. They know they are called to reach out. Saint Teresa of Calcutta also said: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”
One way to keep Christ in Christmas is to Be Christ to a hungry child.