Saturday, August 31, 2013

An Important Way of Thinking About Health: Caring for the Poor

Every season, we bring in a professional nutritionist to address the importance of good eating habits with the cross country team. The day before a meet, we coaches remind runners they are to hydrate, finish a well balanced meal of carbs and protein and get a good night's sleep.  We make recommendations of what's to eat on race day, especially when nerves are raw.  Being healthy and staying healthy are foundational for success.  Who would have thought that caring for the poor is another. 

In "Our Need to Give to the Poor," Ron Rolheiser writes "We need to give to the poor, not because they need it, though they do, but because we need to do that in order to be healthy. That's an axiom that is grounded in Scripture where time and again, we are taught that giving to the poor is something that we need to do for our own health. We see this expressed in many religion and cultures." He lists a number of practices and examples that speak to this truth.  He has also named a truth that is a challenge for all of us to recognize and practice in the fabric of our everyday lives.

I spoke with the athletic director about getting our sports teams in-season to participate in our Thursday Morning Comfort Runs.  This program was started at St. Ignatius by students who went on the Tacoma Immersion.  On that service-mission trip, students accompany members of St. Leo's parish as they hand out sandwiches and juice to the hungry on the streets of Tacoma.  
A great way for a team to bond.  Make those sandwiches together!
The comfort run is as informal and organic and its gets. Parishoners saw a need. They decided anyone could purchase, prepare, bake or donate healthy food give it away from the back of someone's van. This van drives to two different locations and feeds nearly 100 people. Service need not be complicated.  Ask yourself What's the need? and fill it. Or in this case—fill them. 

And so the Comfort Run now has a satellite location!  Every Thursday, students at SI meet at 6:45 in the garage on campus, where a faculty member drives a school van to the Tenderloin. Five, eight or ten students hand out sandwiches that were prepared by students the day before to feed men and women on the street.
I hope sports teams will consider going on the Comfort Run or committing as an entire team to making the sandwiches that we give away.  

Making the sandwiches together is not complicated.  Ask captains to organize who is going to bring what—bread, lunch meat, cheese and mustard (I can see it now...some of you are calling for peppers, lettuce...onion...tomato, right?!).  Set up an assembly line before or after practice.  Again, this is as informal and organic and it gets.  And it's also a new way to talk to each other about our physical and spiritual health.  

How do you feel when you are hungry?  Would you be able to practice or compete?  And beyond the physical reality, how does feeding the poor enhance our health?  Invite your team into this discussion. For my athletes at SI, it's another way to give meat to our motto: AMDG. Have a great season!

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Two Key Ingredients

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