Friday, December 16, 2011

December 16: Bread...That This House May Never Know Hunger

Bread...that this house may never know hunger.

Mary and her loaf
Mary Bailey says this at the dedication of Mr. Martini's house, which was financed by her husband, George.  Mr. Martini is an Italian immigrant, and he and his wife have a good, Catholic brood of children, plus a goat.  Through George, Mr. Martini is living the American dream.  A house.  A family.  A job.  Food on the table.  Mary's gift of a loaf of bread symbolizes one of every parents' greatest fears:  no being able to feed their children.

Yesterday, I went to my daughter's Christmas program at school.  It was wonderful, full of Christmas carols and kids in cheesy costumes.  My daughter was a flower dancer in The Nutcracker.  We had a great time.

After the program was over, we picked up our daughter at her classroom to take her home.  As we were walking down the hallway toward the exit, she pointed out something posted on the wall.  It was a Christmas project in which she listed what she wished she could give to her family and school and the world for Christmas.  She pointed at what she wrote about our family and smiled.

She wrote that she would give her mommy and daddy more money so that we could move from our small house to a bigger house.  She also said that she would give us money to buy food that we like.

It was a sobering moment for me, the fact that my daughter realizes that money is really tight for our family.  I know I've said to her on a couple of occasions recently, "No, we can't buy that.  We don't have the money."  I don't even remember what she wanted me to purchase.  Obviously, my words made a big impression on her.

Don't get me wrong.  My wife and I aren't on the doorstep of poverty.  However, money is tight and getting tighter.  From week to week, I worry about paying the bills.  If my wife doesn't get a job soon (she's in the running for a permanent job as an aide for a Headstart classroom), we're going to have to make some difficult decisions.  I know that my daughter is picking up on my fears about the future.

We will never starve.  I know that.  We will never be without a roof over our heads.  I know that, too.  Clothing.  Heat.  Those are pretty much a given, also.  I just don't know where we'll be living or what we'll be eating.

That scene in front of Mr. Martini's new home in It's A Wonderful Life always manages to get me choked up.  It's because it's about a good man getting his dream.  And his dream is so simple:  a decent house, a job, a family, and food to feed his family.  Bread.  Security.

I need to let my daughter know, somehow, that we'll always have a home and bread.  I need to let her know that our house will never know hunger.

Just call me Saint Mr. Martini.

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