January 31, 2009
Columbus is a generous place. We give to causes. We give for art. In this city, "The Friendly City," most of us would be mortified to know that someone was really hungry.
Oh, I don''t mean that ennui for a cola and a Moon Pie, or the wish that dinner would cook itself. I am talking about a deep, haven''t-eaten-in-a-day emptiness.
In our city, lunch is sacred. Businesses, even the gas company, close for the noon meal. We would gladly feed anyone who asked.
Indeed, there is much help for those who can ask. The Salvation Army gives bags of groceries to hungry humans. Almost every church has a program to feed God''s children. "Ask and ye shall receive."
But, what about those who cannot speak? We are not a community of empaths, who "just know" what is needed. Are any of us likely to look into a pair of dark, soulful eyes and be able to read that mind?
I''m worried about the animals. I''m worried about the pet owners who cannot afford to feed their furry family members.
We have a place for strays. The Humane Society does wonderful work, and truly on a shoestring.
I spoke to Karen Johnwick, director of Columbus-Lowndes Humane Society. "We are grateful for donations of pet food, or money," she told me. "But our resources are quite limited. We need everything we receive for the animals we take in. There is no help for individual pet owners."
Right now, about 200 homeless dogs and cats are housed at the facility. Someday, when a new building is constructed, there will be increased capacity for other species.
"However, some pets are surrendered only because the families can no longer afford to care for them," Johnwick says. Most are euthanized.
She also told me many larger communities have a "Pet Pantry," where owners can get free pet food and other supplies in difficult times.
Columbus has nothing like that. I wish for a way to help pet parents before they are forced to give up a dear friend. I wish for a pet food bank.
Big problems sometimes have simple solutions. Animal lovers could start with a very small ministry. When we go to the grocery, we could pick up an extra bag or can of food, or maybe some kitty litter. Someone could offer a garage or carport for temporary storage.
I envision a free service where the human recipients could volunteer time in exchange for their pet''s food. They could also replenish stock when personal circumstances change.
Perhaps, someday, a follower of Saint Francis of Assisi may write a grant, or leave a huge legacy, for this mission. Eventually, the plan may evolve into veterinary services, especially to provide those costly medications, or spaying and neutering. Until then, I truly believe that this could work on a very small scale.
It is easy to feel powerless. The problems that swirl around us like a hurricane seem overwhelming. War, the economy, health care, all are too vast, too enormous for any of us to affect. But, feeding just one of the Earth''s creatures is something anyone can do.
There is power in action. The people of Columbus may someday be known for our kindness to the small and silent among us. We could start now.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina. E-mail reaches her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.