The New Hungry

despair

“I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for the minds and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are being told that here, in the United States, we are “in an economic recovery.”

Really?

That’s not what the folks working at the soup kitchens, food banks, and shelters are saying.  The number of people coping with food insecurity is not decreasing.  Quite the opposite.  College-educated, middle-class men and women are now very much a part of the “hungry” demographic in our society. I know them.  Hell, I’ve written about them. They are real people, not fictional characters.  Their stories are not embellished.  These are true accounts of their descent into a state of existence that is not only a new and unsettling experience for them, but also one that doesn’t have a frame of reference. Imagine, for a moment, what this must feel like.  When you’ve never been poor or hungry…  and suddenly you are. How do you wrap your mind around it?  What are your coping mechanisms?  More importantly, how do you get yourself out of this rut?  Before making a snap judgment, understand that there is no Dr. Phil quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solution.

We are being told that the economic crisis in Europe is over.

Really?

Let’s look at Greece, for example.  In an article from The Guardian, journalist Helena Smith writes “Against a backdrop of record unemployment, and with the country ensnared in its worst crisis in modern times, hardship is surfacing in ways that few would ever have foreseen. Hunger and undernourishment are part of that spectre.”   Xenia Papastavrou, director of Boroume (the leading food bank organization in Greece), was quoted as saying  “In traditional middle-class neighborhoods like Zographou,  the number of those requiring support has gone up from 50 to 500 since 2011.”

It would appear that the “new faces of hungry” is a global issue.

It would appear that the there will be no “Hallelujahs” in our immediate economic future.

I wish I could tell a different story.  Believe me, I do.  But, I can’t.  This is the reality.  You can choose to put your fingers in your ears and chant “lalalalalalala”…  but that won’t change the reality, I’m afraid.

The question then becomes “what can we do?” 

I can’t answer that for you. But I can tell you what I’m doing.  Damage control.  People can’t think or function properly when they’re hungry.  So, my immediate reaction is to help people who are experiencing hunger, probably for the first time in their lives.

Kindness. Pass it on. 

Snapshots in words through a writer’s lens

Since writing my book,  Casualties of the Recession Depression (A collection of vignettes), I’ve been asked – by people unfamiliar with the genre – to explain the difference between a short story and a vignette, and why I chose to employ the latter, rather than the former. Here are the definitions, followed by my explanation.

Short Story

Syllabification: (short sto·ry)

Definition (per the Oxford Dictionary):

noun 

— a story with a fully developed theme but significantly shorter and less elaborate than a novel.

Vignette

Syllabification: (vi·gnette)

Pronunciation: /vinˈyet/

Definition (per the Oxford Dictionary):

noun (in the context of writing)

  1. a brief evocative description, account, or episode.

verb (in the contect of writing)

  1. portray (someone) in the style of a vignette.

Wikipedia’s Definition (this is exactly what a vignette is):

“In theatrical script writing, sketch stories, and poetry, a vignette is a short impressionistic scene that focuses on one moment or gives a trenchant impression about a character, idea, setting, or object.”

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Essentially, a vignette is like a snapshot in words.  Through a writer’s lens, a moment/feeling/episode in time is captured and portrayed in such a way that the reader can feel the character’s pain (or joy), understand the character’s mindset, be part of the character’s experience – albeit vicariously.

In the context of my book, I wanted to record real (and sometimes raw) moments experienced by people who have been adversely affected by this long economic downturn.  By capturing these brief episodes and providing a written backdrop for each year (in the form of an economic and political commentary), the reader can see the transformation and progression of this Recession Depression from its conception to its continued existence in the present day. The middle class is disappearing below the poverty line. As long as these people continue to be hungry, homeless and jobless, this “recession” is not over.

Below is one (of 39) vignettes from the Second Edition of Casualties of the Recession Depression:

Vignette #13 (2009) ― Young and Hungry

He sat in the coffee shop, his fingers restlessly turning the pages of his textbook.  He had been there for three and a half hours, nursing a cup of coffee.  “Thank God for free refills!” – he thought to himself.  He was trying hard to focus on the words in front of him, willing the gurgling in his empty stomach to go away.  His hands were slightly shaky.  He could smell the toasted ham and cheese sandwich that someone was eating at a nearby table.  Freshly baked bread had just come out of the oven and the lady behind the counter was stacking the loaves on the shelf.  His mouth started to water and he felt dizzy.  He willed himself to block it all out. Two more hours passed by.

It was closing time.  The coffee shop lady was rushing to close up. She grabbed all the leftover loaves of bread (two were left), bagels (all seven of them), and two donuts – and threw them roughly into a big garbage can, which she wheeled into the back room. He swallowed, throat dry.  A tear escaped from the corner of his eye.  He was too proud to ask. And the coffee shop lady didn’t see, nor would she probably have given him a second thought if she had.  He clenched his jaw and grimly packed his book into his bag.  

He glanced once at the lady behind the counter. Her face was blank when she looked back at him. Oblivious.  She tapped her fingers on the glass, impatient to close the lights.

He left quietly, not looking back.  He wondered whether things would get better after he graduated from college. He wasn’t so sure.

(PS: This coffee shop actually went out of business and closed its doors for good, just one month later. And the fate of the lady behind the counter?  She joined the ranks of the unemployed.)

The Second Edition of Casualties of the Recession Depression will be coming out soon!

All images, photos and text are the property of Heather Joan Marinos and may not be used, reproduced, or distributed.
 Copyright © 2013-2018 Heather Joan Marinos – All Rights Reserved.

 

Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy

“My recovery has not been easy. Nothing in life that’s worth anything is easy.” 

—  Sergeant First Class Cory Remsbur

Many of us can attest to that.

In his last words, during yesterday’s State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama said:

“My fellow Americans, men and women like Cory remind us that America has never come easy.  Our freedom, our democracy, has never been easy.  Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged.  But for more than two hundred years, we have put those things aside and placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress – to create and build and expand the possibilities of individual achievement; to free other nations from tyranny and fear; to promote justice, and fairness, and equality under the law, so that the words set to paper by our founders are made real for every citizen.  The America we want for our kids – a rising America where honest work is plentiful and communities are strong; where prosperity is widely shared and opportunity for all lets us go as far as our dreams and toil will take us – none of it is easy.  But if we work together; if we summon what is best in us, with our feet planted firmly in today but our eyes cast towards tomorrow – I know it’s within our reach. 

Believe it.”

I do.

A book with a local story, but a global message

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Around the world with Casualties of the (Recession) Depression….
… amazingly, the Kindle (eBook) edition is available virtually everywhere!
 

Although Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is about middle-class America, the experiences narrated in this book, along with the issues of recession, hunger, joblessness, homelessness… are experiences and issues that have no geographic boundaries.  They are global.  Especially in today’s world economy. 

There are approximately 870 million people, worldwide,  who are experiencing  hunger. 

Book Details:

Genre: Non-fiction

Categories: Commentary, Economics, Economic Condition, Politics

Topic: Economic crisis in middle-class America. Real people. Real stories. Real issues. Complete with commentary, historical/comparative economic analysis and statistics, helpful resources, and philanthropic programs.

Available (in English) through the following worldwide Amazon sites:

        Europe:

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Image via spartantraveler.com.

Announcing “Casualties of the (Recession) Depression” on Amazon Kindle!

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My book, Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is now available in eBook format… on Amazon Kindle, is US $9.99 (Paperback edition retails at US $20).

Although Casualties of the (Recession) Depression is about middle-class America, the experiences narrated in this book, along with the issue of recession, hunger, joblessness, homelessness…are experiences and issues that have no geographic boundaries. They are global. Especially in today’s world economy. Therefore, this book is applicable everywhere. As I write on the front cover: “They could be you. They could be me. They could be anyone.”

Here’s who will find added value to buying a copy of Casualties of the (Recession) Depression:

  1. Civics and humanities students/teachers – this book would be perfect suggested reading for the class.
  2. If you are involved with your own organizations, in the fight for hunger, this book would be a good one to use as collateral material for your cause(s).
  3. If you are in government, this book would be good reference/collateral material for your political platform and/or constituency.
  4. If you are involved in your religious community and work with community outreach programs, to fight hunger and homelessness, this would be a good book to raise awareness in your congregation/religious programs.
  5. If you work in the field of hospital administration, social work or advocacy, this book would be an interesting (and valuable) reference to have.

Some of the Amazon customer reviews are on the right sidebar of this blog site.

I hope that you’ll give it a read!

Cheers,

— Heather

Want a dose of wisdom? Talk to a taxi driver.

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Over the years, I’ve had some highly entertaining and very informative conversations with taxi drivers. If you ever want a spot-on gage (or gauge) of current socio-economic issues and seer-like accurate predictions of future events, speak to a taxi driver. These guys (although there are female cab drivers, it is still a male-dominated field of work) will always tell it like it is, without frills or any long-winded speeches. 

In an election year, forget what the polls say.  Ask a cabbie, and he’ll tell you who will win. He will usually be right.

Want to know how bad (or good) the economy really is?  Speak to a taxi driver.  He will filter out all the marketing rhetoric that the political pundits are espousing.  He will refute many economists (particularly the ones who back up the politicians) as they predict current and future economic trends.

Taxi driver wisdom is not unique to the United States.  Take a cab in any city or suburb in Canada, in Europe, or indeed anywhere in the world… and you will be a captive audience of one – a student in the University of Reality.

Before you laugh and shake your head in disbelief, I tell you that what I say is true.  I’ve “attended” many such “class lectures” – from Dublin and London to Paris and Berlin, from Vancouver (British Columbia) to Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island), and in at least 35 states right here, in America.

I will tell you the latest “word on the street.”  Recently, I phoned my favorite taxi driver (Martin), to wish him a happy birthday (he and I were born in the same year).  I’ve known Martin for 15 years and he has become a dear friend.  After all the birthday wishes and catching up on each other’s news, I asked him the million-dollar question:

“So what do you think, Martin… are we in an economic recovery…  as we’ve been told?”

He laughed mirthlessly and said:

“Are you kidding me? Maybe the country club folks think that this is a recovery. They are not feeling the  pinch.  The middle class is. People are still struggling to make ends meet. Even my regular corporate customers are traveling minimally, taking no more than one or two business trips each quarter.”

I asked one last question:

“Is there an economic recovery in sight, perhaps in 2014?”

With a sigh, he said:

“Yes, probably towards the middle or end of 2014…. but it won’t be the recovery that we’ve all been praying for.  It will be a weak recovery. But, at least it will be a little better than it is now.”

From your lips to God’s ears, Martin.

So, there you have it. Taxi driver wisdom.

We’ll see how everything pans out.

HFH2

From Aug 14-Sept 7, purchase a copy of  Casualties of the (Recession) Depression, and for every $20 book purchased directly from me, through my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either: Feeding America (US), Action Against Hunger (Canada), or The World Food Programme (Global). The purchaser chooses one of the three. As I’ve stated before and clearly state on my website, this promotion does not apply to books purchased from third party distributors, such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Book Promotion “Help Fight Hunger” Launches Today

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I decided to launch a 3½-week Help Fight Hunger campaign – beginning today (August 14) and ending on Saturday, September 7, 2013, at 5:00 PM (EDT) —  For every $20 book purchased directly from my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either Feeding America or The World Food Programme (the purchaser chooses).

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All too often, we waste food — sometimes without giving a second thought to whether or not the person sitting next to us may be living in a food insecure household.  An alarming number of middle-class families are now, for the first time,  experiencing what it is like to be hungry.  Their stories will break your heart. Their stories will make you want to kneel down, bow your head and say a prayer of thanks for the food on your table, for being spared the suffering, despair, and indignity of being hungry. 

Below is a vignette from my book, Casualties of the (Recession) Depression.  This is a true story.

Young and Hungry

“He sat in the coffee shop, his fingers restlessly turning the pages of his textbook.  He had been there for three and a half hours, nursing a cup of coffee.  “Thank God for free refills!” – he thought to himself.  He was trying hard to focus on the words in front of him, willing the gurgling in his empty stomach to go away.  His hands were slightly shaky.  He could smell the toasted ham and cheese sandwich that someone was eating at a nearby table.  Freshly baked bread had just come out of the oven and the lady behind the counter was stacking the loaves on the shelf.  His mouth started to water and he felt dizzy.  He willed himself to block it all out. Two more hours passed by.

It was closing time.  The coffee shop lady was rushing to close up. She grabbed all the leftover loaves of bread (two were left), bagels (all seven of them), and two donuts – and threw them roughly into a big garbage can, which she wheeled into the back room. He swallowed, throat dry.  A tear escaped from the corner of his eye. He was too proud to ask. And the coffee shop lady didn’t see, nor would she probably have given him a second thought if she had. He clenched his jaw and grimly packed his book into his bag. 

He glanced once at the lady behind the counter. Her face was blank when she looked back at him. Oblivious.  She tapped her fingers on the glass, impatient to close the lights.

He left quietly, not looking back.  He wondered whether things would get better after he graduated from college. He wasn’t so sure.”

Casualties of the (Recession) Depression – Copyright © 2013 by Heather Joan Marinos.  All Rights Reserved.

Help Fight Hunger. 

Drop by www.heatherjoanmarinos.com.

HFH

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image (of young man) via   abcradionewsonline.com (Jupiterimages/Thinkstock).

Help Fight Hunger

“The war against hunger is truly mankind’s war of liberation. “
— John F. Kennedy

My objective for writing  Casualties of The (Recession) Depression, was to raise awareness that, despite the rhetoric we hear (that we are in a “recovery”), millions of American middle-class people continue to experience severe economic hardship and challenges.  Hunger, homelessness and joblessness are problems that are not just relegated to the chronically poor — but to a growing number of middle-class men and women, as well.  The threat of  this class extinction is very real.

In this country and in this century, it is abominable that over 50 million people live in food-insecure households (over 19 million are children). 

Well-respected non-profit organizations, such as Feeding America and (on a global level) The World Food Programme (a division of the United Nations), make it their mission to fight hunger…  one person, one household, and one community at a time.

But, they can’t do it alone.

I decided to launch a 3½-week Help Fight Hunger campaign – beginning tomorrow (August 14) at 8:00 AM (EDT) and ending on Saturday, September 7, 2013, at 5:00 PM (EDT) —  For every $20 book purchased directly from my website, I will be donating $5 from the proceeds of each book sale to either Feeding America or The World Food Programme (the purchaser chooses).

Please read the details below (click on the picture to zoom in  for a better read).

It’s a start…

HelpFightHunger

We, the People

middleclass

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crises. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” 

— Abraham Lincoln

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Excerpt from Casualties of the (Recession) Depression  (last two sentences in the Conclusions):

“The bottom line is:  if there are middle-class Americans who continue to experience economic hardship, then the problem still exists. If they are not in the process of recovering, then we are not “in a recovery.”

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(Copyright © 2013 Heather Joan Marinos – All Rights Reserved).

 

Photo: iStockphoto