"There are plenty of poor, starving children in Africa who'd be glad of that." It's a phrase that I, and many of my friends, grew up with when we didn't want to eat what our mothers had put in front of us. I don't know the American equivalent, but I'm sure it exists.
It's a maddening phrase. Sooner or later, every child will burst out with "well give it to THEM, then." Perfectly logical, perfectly fair, and with no understanding whatsoever of the frustration that goes behind the comment - the shopping, the meal planning, the preparation, the worry that the child may not be getting proper nutrition.
Sure enough, the day came where my daughter refused, for the hundredth time, to eat her dinner. I listened, aghast, as the phrase popped automatically out of my mouth. And she replied, just as I had, "Well, give it to THEM."
It wasn't planned. It just so happened that the same day I'd seen one of those guilt-trip ads on TV where they show kids in the third world hungry, and hopeless. I called the number, and sponsored a child in my daughter's name, and I stopped buying snacks.
Of course, she made a fuss, and said that it was the meat and veg she wanted passed on, not the good-to-eat sugar-stuffed delights. I pointed out that the child in Africa was getting meat and veg., and if she didn't fill up on snacks, her own meals would be that much more appetising.
It took a while to convince her, but in the end it worked.
Now this isn't a node about What a Great Mother Demeter Is. It's about the fact that every last one of us on E2 got lucky. We bitch and moan, and yes, goodness knows we have troubles and tragedies in our lives, but still, in global and historical terms we got really, really lucky.
We are here reading , writing. That means we grew up in a time and a place where learning to read and write was a right, not a privilege.
We're using computers and the internet, which I'd guess means that every last one of us has a roof over our head, enough food to live on, clothes on our back and shoes on our feet. I'd guess that it also means that few of us walk out of our doors every day into a neighbourhood where violence and hopelessness is a prominent part of everyday life.
We write pieces about how terrible mean our moms are, how our kids drive us mad - which means that our moms (and we) survived childbirth and those repulsive teens aren't forced into a life in factories or mines. In our arrogance, we write about the stupidity of others, without considering how lucky we were to be born with our own monumental intellects.
Best of all, we have places like this, where we can find wit, wisdom, humour and beauty, all laid out for our delectation.
Right, that's the preachy bit over. Blessings counted.
Being as lucky as we are, we can do things - really simple things - that help those that aren't so lucky. Is there one of us that can't spare a single can of food to take in to the Salvation Army?
We can click on the button on www.thehungersite.com once a day, and join the race for the rainforest at www.care2.com
We can pay a little more, and buy from companies who don't exploit the less lucky. We can give our loose change and the odd cigarette to a tramp. Old clothes and unwanted but still good items can, and should, go to charity shops.
We can use our place here on E2 to promote things like this and other ways we've found to help.
None of this even makes an impact on our own comfortable lives. The most it's going to cost us is a single frappucino a week. (At some point, I'll write up some of the more effort-and-cash-intensive ways to make a difference).
And - here's the kicker - it can make us feel good about ourselves in a way that nothing and no-one else can.
We got lucky - let's spread some of that luck around.