I’ve written about a variety of topics on this blog, but the majority of my posts address foreign affairs and strategic issues. While these topics are my passion, they can often be rather abstract, talking about consequences in terms of sovereign states, global institutions, international relations theory, and so on. When individuals are mentioned, it’s usually in the form of significant leaders. The citizenry, in whose name foreign affairs is practiced, is oddly enough, often absent from the discussion. It’s implied that the benefits of a sound foreign policy will trickle down to them, but rarely is it ever stated directly. Given this characteristic of foreign affairs, it’s important to be reminded every now and then that we do all of this to help people. That at the end of the day, the measure of success should be, by and large, whether people’s lives have improved or not.
I mention all of this because we had a family reunion two days ago and I had the pleasure of talking with one of my cousins and her wife about an amazing charity they run in their hometown of Nashua, New Hampshire called End 68 Hours of Hunger. The purpose of the charity is simple: to end the 68 hours of hunger “that some school children experience between the free lunch they receive in school on Friday afternoon and the free breakfast they receive in school on Monday morning.” That’s right – even in the richest country in the world there are still kids who go hungry on the weekends. I had no idea this was a problem until my cousin Sandy and her wife Lisa opened a branch of this charity several years ago. Since then, they have expanded to provide food for over 150 kids during weekends throughout the school year. Nationwide, the charity now feeds thousands of kids every year. It’s truly an amazing program and one that makes a direct and tangible improvement in people’s lives.
I’m writing about this not to brag – although I am incredibly proud of Sandy and Lisa – but because talking to them reminded me to think about people, rather than nation states, and how we can help them. It was also a reminder about priorities. Can we truly say we budget our money well as a nation if kids are going hungry all over the country? Both morally and practically I think the answer is pretty obvious. If government success was actually measured by improvement in people’s lives, charities like End 68 Hours of Hunger wouldn’t exist, because there’d be no need for private individuals to fill such a gaping hole in our social safety system. Which is why a reminder about helping people is necessary every now and then, especially for those of us who prefer the abstract world of foreign affairs.