9/11 Day of Service in New York City
This past Sunday marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York City and Washington DC. It also marked the 14th anniversary of the organization 9/11 Day, founded by David Paine and Jay Winuk, whose brother Glenn lost his life in the World Trade Center. A lawyer and volunteer firefighter, Glenn died while trying to rescue those stuck in the twin towers. “Making 9/11 into a day of goodness is something Glenn would have liked,” says 9/11 Day co-founder Jay Winuk. Today, nearly a third of Americans participate in some type of charitable action on 9/11, making it the single largest annual day of social and charitable engagement. As often is the case, our particular focus of service was that of helping to alleviate hunger.
Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi, Members of Buddhist Global Relief and others from the Buddhist community joined over 2,000 other volunteers on Manhattan’s pier 39 in the Lower East Side to package meals for the city’s hungry. Working together as teams, the groups worked in assembly line fashion to prepare over half a million kits containing well-balanced meals. These meals will be sent to food pantries throughout the city and distributed directly to those in need.
Want Amidst Wealth
In a city of such abundant wealth, hunger can easily seem more a concept than a reality. Hunger happens ‘over there,’ wherever ‘there’ is, but certainly not ‘here.’ However, the truth is, there exists a deep gulf of income inequality throughout the city, with the haves living next to, but far removed from, the have-nots. In ‘border neighborhoods,’ new, gleaming towers of architectural might dwarf low-rise tenements. These sentinels of luxurious living speak to gentrification and impending rent increases for those who can least afford them.
While the vast majority of the world’s hungry live in developing areas, hunger in America isn’t from a lack of food. Rather, poverty causes hunger, as the more one spends on housing, the less money one has to spend on food. As many as 25% of the city’s children live in households that are deemed food insecure. The old idea that only those who are homeless or unemployed suffer from hunger no longer holds true. In fact, of adults between ages 15-64 who lack food, 47% are working. However, with a citywide minimum wage of $8.75, the typical New York household spends 65% of its income on rent. With the cost of living so high, many simply cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads and earn enough to feed themselves. As such, hunger is a daily companion for many New Yorkers,
Solidarity: Working Together to End Suffering
An interfaith service preceded the event with representatives from the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish communities. Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi represented the Buddhist faith contingent, speaking on solidarity, stating that, “Solidarity means the connection of our own heart with those who suffer.” Bhante added that “one of the most degrading, debilitating forms of suffering is that of hunger and malnutrition,” reminding us of the primacy of Buddhist Global Relief’s mission: fighting chronic hunger and malnutrition around the world.
“May all beings be free from suffering.”