Hungry is Hungry - a reflection from outside my comfort zone
by Ann Holtz, AwakeningSoul Partner
On a hot July evening, I found myself turning into a trailer park in rural Western North Carolina. The first trailer on the property was proudly flying a Confederate flag. What had I gotten myself into?

I was there because all of my life I have followed my understanding of the Gospel and my mother’s lead. I feed people – it’s what I do. More specifically, I was there in that moment because of an inspiring conversation I participated in at The Center for Racial Healing early last month. Dr. Catherine Meeks challenged all of us, “We can pray and we can cry and we can protest but at the end of the day if we aren’t making a difference in this child’s life (holding up a picture of a child held at a border detention center) we aren’t doing what we need to be doing.”
Dr. Meeks had invited interested folks to gather and talk about the humanitarian crisis at the border. Much of the conversation focused on issues closer to home. I left that meeting with a better understanding that family separation isn’t just happening at the border. It is happening in our communities. It happens every time there is a raid on a chicken processing plant, a tomato packing operation, or just in a local traffic stop when the crime is driving while brown. The individuals who are picked up are sent to regional detention centers miles from their families and are almost certain to be deported. They leave behind families who love and depend on them. My take-away from that meeting was that that I can make a difference in a child’s life here at home.

I am part of Down Home NC, a grassroots organization in my new hometown of Waynesville. When the widespread ICE raids were announced this crew of committed folks moved quickly to collect food and sanitary/hygiene products for our immigrant/migrant neighbors. We jumped into action because we know the fear that ICE creates throughout the community keeps people homebound - afraid to go to the store for basic necessities.

This brings me back to that hot night in the trailer park, I was there to deliver food boxes to seasonal migrant families who had just arrived to pick vegetables in Haywood County. These families had arrived in our community amid the heightened fear created by the announced ICE raids. Vicenos, a farmworker health program, was going to meet the families and invited us to come along to deliver food.

What did I experience there?

  • Unimaginable poverty less than 15 miles from my home. Stifling hot single wide trailers each housing multiple families. The families we came to help had left their homelands for this “better life”?
  • White families sitting on the steps of their trailers, watching us bring food and services to their brown neighbors. I imagine they were hungry and hot and despairing, too. What kind of dynamics were we setting up?
  • A young mother, or young mothers, with crying babies in a hot trailer with doors and windows locked too afraid to open the door to receive help. What is it like to live in that kind of fear?
  • Several beautiful children dancing around us as we distributed the food. While they danced other children sat quietly on the steps of their trailer and watched. Yes, I did make a difference in the lives of children that night, but what about the others? The magnitude of need that I experienced that night was gut-wrenching and left me shaken.
What have I reflected on ever since?
  • I don’t ever want to be in a position of offering food to one group while another group watches. We were there as a response to an immediate need but I don’t want to be part of a any ongoing feeding effort that excludes anyone with regard to race, ethnicity, religion, documentation status, who they love, or what flag they fly.
  • Food deserts don’t just exist in our cities. On that night my eyes were opened to rural food deserts. For these families, grocery stores are 10+ miles away. Their closest food options are the Dollar General and the convenience store at the gas station – both a long walk from the trailer park and neither offering healthy food.
  • We need to think beyond the traditional food pantry model. Pantry hours that are convenient to volunteers may not serve the needs of the working poor who cannot leave their jobs during pantry hours. Asking for IDs may make pantry organizers feel good about avoiding fraud, but many can’t provide IDs. Pantries in town assume that their clients have access to a vehicle that runs, have money for gas, have a driver’s license, and are free of fear to come into town.
  • I want to address the needs of the food insecure in my new community. There are a lot of folks here with a passion for feeding people. Together, we need to work smart and think beyond “This is how we have always done it.” We need to get food out there and to serve all.
  • Hungry is Hungry

Driving to that trailer park was outside of my comfort zone. What I saw there will take me further out of my comfort zone as I commit myself to this work.

Hungry is Hungry What does this have to do with AwakeningSoul ?

When people ask me why I do AwakeningSoul my response is always “to feed hungry souls.”

At the beginning, when Fran and I first started to talk about partnering to host events I had just graduated from the Spiritual Direction program at the Haden Institute. Everywhere I turned it seemed that I was in conversation with someone who was describing a deep spiritual hunger – a longing to be opened up, to explore, to be challenged, to be affirmed, and to find a community where doubts and questions were both welcomed and honored.

AwakeningSoul was born out of the desire to respond to that hunger. Each year as Fran and I begin to design the next event, the desire to feed all who gather with us is at the heart of our planning. Our offerings come in the form of challenging speakers, piercingly beautiful music, modern icon-like art, inclusive worship, oh, and food.

Hungry is Hungry and that includes feeding hungry souls! 

AWAKENINGSOUL 2019

In This Great River - Presence, Deep Listening, and Discernment

with Barbara Brown Taylor, Jacqui Lewis, Larry Maze
and the AwakeningSoul Ensemble

November 7-10, 2019
Lutheridge Conference Center
Asheville, NC
Registration for AwakeningSoul 2019 is currently full.
HOWEVER, we always have a number of cancellations. We expect 20 or more spaces will open up. If you want to come, please go to the registration site to get your name on the waitlist. 
AwakeningSoul Is the collaborative partnership of Fran McKendree and Ann Holtz. Fran is a gifted musician based in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Ann is both a spiritual director and an independent consultant. She lives in Waynesville, NC. Together they have formed AwakeningSoul to offer spiritual events to feed hungry souls. Ann can be reached at annawakening@gmail.com or 865-414-8509.

AwakeningSoul Banner Images are used by permission ~ Rara Schlitt (c) and Mary How (c)