TROUTMAN: The wild strength of feeding others


The war in Gaza is nearing 200 days, and half a million people are threatened with starvation. Where might we find hope? Following the advice of Mister Rogers in times of tragedy, I look for the helpers—those bravely racing to the frontlines. But a recent drone attack killed seven helpers from the World Central Kitchen trying to bring food.

Amid the international outcry, I read the clarion voice of Jose Andres, founder of the World Central Kitchen. Andres, a former celebrity chef, has gained prominence for his magnanimous humanitarian efforts. The World Central Kitchen began in response to a devastating hurricane in Houston in 2017. Since then, dedicated workers have delivered hot meals to war zones, including Gaza, Ukraine, and Sudan. The World Central Kitchen also served almost two million meals in Israel in the aftermath of the October 7 massacre.

In his appeal to Israel to allow humanitarian assistance to flow into Gaza, Andres concluded, “It is not a sign of weakness to feed strangers; it is a sign of strength. The people of Israel need to remember, at this darkest hour, what strength truly looks like.”

While politicians and military leaders act as though true strength is a show of force, what I find most striking about Andres’ recent editorial is that he appealed to the strength of an ancient religious story. Across the globe, Jews prepare to sit down to a seder meal, a ritual feast that marks the liberation of Israelites from enslavement in Egypt. According to Exodus 22:21, the idea is to “remember you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” At some point in life, don’t we all find ourselves in need of assistance? Should this not move us toward compassion?

For Christians, another reminder is that, on the night he was betrayed, Jesus took bread and, after giving thanks for it, shared it with others. “Do this in remembrance of me,” he said. In remembrance of these faithful acts and inspired by modern helpers like Andres, I recently made donations to the World Central Kitchen as well as to CORA, a food pantry in Chatham County. Might you, gentle reader, do the same?

Here is a wild thought: true strength is not found in military power or political authority but in the compassionate acts of people like you and me, who, perhaps in seemingly small ways, reach out to help. Who knows how the strength of simple kindness will echo for years in someone’s life and even reverberate in the larger world?

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church as well as a writer, pizza maker, coffee drinker and student of joy.