Pricked Conscience

Thank you for all your prayers, thoughts, concern, love.

After I abandoned my dysfunctional brother on the streets of Fort Collins and drove the 1000 miles back to where I am caring for my 97-year-old father, all I could do was weep. I felt terrible that no one cared. I wondered how it was possible in a world of 7,184, 285,500 people, my brother could be so unloved. And then I realized the truth. I cared, and so did all of you. Not that it makes any difference to him (at least as far as I know), but it makes a difference to me.

Even though he ended up angry, abusive, demanding, it wasn’t always so. He’d been in my life from the moment I was born, and I’d looked up to him. I remember him as a radiant and charming child. A brilliant youth. A teenager who refused to let himself be beaten (with a belt, no less) into submission. A young man who felt at home no matter where he roamed. A middle-aged man who struggled with problems greater than his ability to solve.

I thought I wanted him out of my life, and I do. For the past fifteen months, he hounded me relentlessly, wanting more from me than I could ever have given him, though to be honest, I’m not exactly sure what he wanted. He settled for a place to camp in the garage and an occasional bag of groceries, but I knew that wasn’t enough. (As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t even solve my own problems, let alone his.)

At the end of the road in Colorado, as he stood there by the car drinking his bribe and exchanging a last few words, I mentioned that he always wanted one more thing from me but he never gave me anything.

“Yes, I did,” he responded. “I pricked your conscience.”

I didn’t think of that remark again until this morning when I got out of a safe and comfortable bed and remembered his saying he needed to find a place to camp by the railroad tracks. I flushed the toilet and remembered that he had to find a place to relieve himself out in the open. I took a cold drink from the refrigerator and remembered that his beverages could only be the temperature of the outside world. I fixed something to eat and remembered the dumpster he pulled his dinner from last night. I drove to the store and remembered how painful it was for him to walk because of his sciatica.

He used to scream, “You’re living like a millionaire while I have to live like a dog, and you don’t even appreciate it.” I always responded that millionaires didn’t have people knocking on their windows for attention dozens of times a night. But the truth is, he is right. I am living like a millionaire — warm bed, hot food, cold drinks, pristine toilet, kitchen, safety, comfort, and friends who care about me.

So thank you, all of you. You mean more to me than you will ever know.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Stop Wasting Food!

A few days ago I wrote Haunted by an Image of Pizza, a post about the huge mounds of half-eaten pizza I saw in dumpster behind a restaurant. I’ve always believed that food was sacred, and that it was a sin to waste anything edible. I despise food fights in movies and scenes where people trash leftovers instead of carefully saving them. Too often, the characters take a few bites of food and scrape the rest in the trash can or garbage disposal, and this ruins the movie for me. It shows a pattern of disregard for food that viewers consciously or unconsciously pick up on.

Besides, how can I empathize with a character who wastes food? I never waste food. I buy only what I can eat before the food goes bad, and when/if I cook, I always store what is left. Leftovers is a term I never use. I believe there is no such thing as leftover food, just a precooked meal. (And to way of thinking, if food smells and looks fresh, it’s still edible. Expiration dates seem more like an expiration of liability than the expiration of food. I’ve eaten eggs that are still fresh two weeks after the expiration date, and canned goods a year or even two after the date.)

Someone left a comment on that post that I would like to share with you. I ended my blog with “I can’t do anything about the situation, either to help the homeless fellow or deal with the discarded food, but still, the image stays with me.” She responded:

Why do you feel like you can’t do anything about the situation? Who do you think can? I will link a couple of articles and a video that I think you (and everyone else) should read/watch. Note the quote “Everybody is waiting for somebody else to take action.”

http://www.thinkeatsave.org/index.php/stop-wasting-food

http://www.themindfulword.org/2011/designed-starvation-food-waste/

http://www.ted.com/talks/tristram_stuart_the_global_food_waste_scandal.html

I can’t emphasise enough that this IS everybody’s responsibility, especially those of us in the privileged position to live in countries with surplus food as opposed to none, and you CAN do something to help the situation.

People are starving all over the world, yet we are so greedy, we order/cook/buy more than we can eat, and throw away the rest. The world produces enough food to feed each person on the globe 2,700 calories per day. (Read more at http://www.themindfulword.org/2011/designed-starvation-food-waste/#yh1IrXaCweEPe6J8.99). No one needs to go hungry.

We’ve been taught that the aesthetics of food is important, and we can be taught that food with blemishes and such things as crooked carrots can be pleasing, too.

As Mahatma Ghandi said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Haunted by an Image of Pizza

I saw something unsettling the other day that I can’t get out of my mind. A homeless man was standing at a dumpster behind a pizza place, feasting on discarded slices. That wasn’t the unsettling thing since it seemed oddly normal — we humans have origins as hunter/gatherers, finding food wherever we might. It wasn’t even that the food had been previously nibbled on, because it hadn’t been. Most of the slices of pizza were whole.

PizzahuttWhat haunts me is the sheer bulk of the discarded food. Hundreds of slices of pizza. Huge bags full. Mounds of it. (Did you ever see Space Balls? Pizza the Hutt? The piles of pizza looked like that.)

I have such a respect for food, that even seeing food wasted in a movie, such as a food fight, turns my stomach. Somehow I had assumed others had the same respect for comestibles. And yet, there was a dumpster full of food that people had ordered and not eaten.

Ignoring the dubious designation of pizza as food, it is edible, and supplies needed calories. Only in a society that views food as disposable and calories as something bad can such a situation occur. I don’t know what the solution is, or if there is a solution. Restaurants can’t really donate used food to homeless shelters, though some restaurants do donate leftover food. (I was a at a family-style dinner once where they kept bringing huge platters of food long after everyone had eaten their fill, and those platters of food were taken to a nearby shelter. They could have fed an army that night with our leftovers alone.)

I can’t do anything about the situation, either to help the homeless fellow or deal with the discarded food, but still, the image stays with me.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.