It is Thanksgiving Day, a moment when Americans celebrate the abundance of our harvest.
There is much to be thankful for. Most, though certainly not all, Americans will be well fed this day.
We enjoy the gift of residence in a land that is far more wealthy, far more productive and far more secure than most.
How ought we to say thanks?
By answering responsibly and realistically to calls for help from those living in lands that are neither so wealthy, nor so productive, nor so secure as our own.
For the past five years, the most visible contribution of the United States to the rest of the world has been chaos. No matter what one thinks of the reasons for going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq, the U.S. has engaged in those endeavors ineptly. And, in so doing, a country that has the power to do immense good has instead been saddled with the image of a bullying incompetent.
That needs to change, not merely for the good of regions that are currently experiencing unnecessary conflict but for the good of the United States.
Simply put, this country needs to improve its image.
Where to begin?
The best place to start is by getting serious about ending hunger on the planet.
Is it possible to end hunger?
"Food supply is not the central issue in reducing hunger," explains Craig Jenkins, a professor of sociology and political science at Ohio State University who has conducted groundbreaking research into the question of whether it is possible to feed the world. "Hunger is largely a political issue."
Jenkins and his colleagues conducted a groundbreaking study of hunger in 53 developing nations with populations of more than 1 million that identified the role that internal war and violence, political repression, high levels of arms trade and population pressures play in locking great masses of people into poverty.
According to Jenkins, the key to reducing hunger throughout the world involves the recognition that challenge is more than just one of agricultural and economic development.
"Hunger is also a distributional problem, and the obstacles to improved distribution are primarily political," says the professor. "Conflict regulation, violence prevention, the reduction of international arms trade, and the protection of civil and political rights should be central to policies that address hunger."
So where should an American, duly inspired by the seasonal spirit, send a check?
While there are many good groups working smart on hunger issues, here are a couple of recommendations:
* The American Friends Service Committee: More than any other group working in the international sector, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning AFSC has long recognized the need to address issues of violence, discrimination and economic injustice in order to address hunger and poverty. Their work on the ground in Africa and the Middle East has been especially sensitive and effective. Especially impressive is their Wage Peace Campaign, which highlights the economic and social costs of war and violence, and their Africa: Life Over Debt campaign, which among other things brings together religious and environmental groups to address the connections between debt relief, poverty, and climate change. To learn more about AFSC, visit the group's website at www.afsc.org or call 1-888-588-2372
* Stop Hunger Now: Established in 1998, in alliance with a program array of groups ranging from Rotary International to the Islamic Relief Agency and Wisconsin/Nicaragua Partners, Stop Hunger Now works to provide the maximum amount of food and life saving aid to the maximum number of the most poor and hungry throughout the world in the most rapid, efficient and effective manner. Their programs are innovative and varied, ranging from traditional emergency relief initiatives that respond to crisis situations to so-called "Seeds Programs," which supply people in areas of chronic drought and famine the necessary resources to rebuild their lives, to micro-credit loan programs that help impoverished women climb out of destitution by funding partner organizations that provide low-interest, revolving loans to empower women to start their own businesses. To a greater extent than many other groups, Stop Hunger Now has figured out how to work around the political barriers that slow down the process of delivering aid and that make it hard for people living in poverty to improve their circumstances. You can learn more about Stop Hunger Now by visiting the group's website at www.stophungernow.org or by calling: 1-888-501-8440.