Harry Potter and Hunger

We all got to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 on Saturday, henceforth known as HP7.5. Good stuff! I started the series when I was about 2 months pregnant, a Christmas present from my mother. “It’s the latest craze in England,” she tells me. Apparently even though it’s a children’s book, everyone is reading it. Hmm, well OK, not the first time I read a kids’ book, but a bit of an odd present, so it sat until February.

It was one of those few times when I read the last page, turned back to the first page and re-read the entire thing. Now I was not so crazed that I went to book openings at midnight or to opening showings or anything like that. The craziest thing I did was get The Order of the Phoenix preordered and delivered by Amazon on a Saturday. But I was never obsessed by the books to say the least. So, I’ve read them all as my child went from growing inside me to a 12-year old who enjoyed the books and movies right along with me. In fact, she cried quite a bit during the last movie, which I thought was touching that she was so moved. I’ve grown as a parent reading Harry, and my child became a young woman while the series came out.

The final book came out several years ago and I am one of those people that just can’t wait. I read the last chapter first. Does knowing what happened ruin things for me? Oh no not at all. In fact, I like seeing where the story is leading. But that is just me. (If you are not one of those people and you don’t like spoilers, skip this paragraph.) I was relieved to learn that Harry lived, like many. And, although I suspected that Snape could not possibly be evil, as Harry thought, I was still moved and surprised by the depth of Snape’s loyalty and devotion. (It didn’t hurt that the amazing and sexy Alan Rickman did such a glorious job of playing this character.) I thought they did an excellent job capturing this in the movies too. They couldn’t cover the weaknesses of Dumbledore (also shocking) in the detail that J.K. Rowling did in her books, but they did a lovely job of showing that there was much more to Snape than appeared behind the sneer. Perhaps I was surprised by this because the characters were so well drawn and thought out. The characters in these books were not one notes. (OK maybe Voldemort, but even he had a tortuous past that explained, ok well only some.) But even the Malfoys, who didn’t exactly become good … but they sure as hell walked away from evil! (Note that I don’t endorse this choice, but mention it to again show character complexity. I also love that she made the evil side BLOND, not because I hate blonds, but because way too often, we poor brunettes are painted to be the dark, evil ones.)

I truly believe that the original complaints from a small group of fundamentalist Christians have died down. This was a Jesus story wrapped in robes and wands and flying brooms. A story of good versus evil, except that almost all the characters had a little bit of all of that in them. They had demons to fight, and doubt to face. They questioned their motives and their decisions. And really, who hasn’t questioned their faith? Can it be called faith if you just believe in it without ever examining it? To me, true faith is examining the unexplainable, questioning it, mulling it and still deciding, despite it all, that you believe. To me, the Harry Potter series is all this and more. But … I’m a Unitarian Universalist and our very nature is to question, to challenge, to make decisions about our actions and our beliefs based on our very doubts about the world and whatever may lay beyond that.

In fact, we’ve been teaching lessons from Harry Potter to our UU kids this summer, and boy there’s lots of good ones to choose. I chose hunger, because I figured we could make something. Here was the quote from the Deathly Hallows that we worked from:

This was their first encounter with the fact that a full stomach meant good spirits; an empty one, bickering and gloom. Harry was least surprised by this, because he had suffered periods of near starvation at the Dursleys’. Hermione bore up reasonably well on those nights when they managed to scavenge nothing but berries or stale biscuits, her temper perhaps a little shorter than usual and her silences rather dour. Ron, however, had always been used to three delicious meals a day, courtesy of his mother or of the Hogwarts house-elves, and hunger made him both unreasonable and irascible. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. Rowling

Ultimately, we taught them what real hunger is about. Not the kind of hunger that means you’re really ready for dinner; the kind where you ache from not getting enough nutrients to grow and thrive, 800 million people. This was not a number they were terribly impressed by until we asked them how many people live in SC. We then explained that there were 200 South Carolinas of hunger people in the world. We taught them that the strength of the community relies on the residents having enough good nourishment to have the energy to change things. Our UU communion services reflect this philosophy. We do not drink and eat the blood and body of Christ. Rather, we thank the earth for giving us nourishment, and with the energy we receive from said nourishment, we hope we use that to make the world a better place. We showed them countries where more than a third of the residents suffered from malnutrition. Perhaps one of the saddest things (besides seeing the majority of African is starving) was that right across the border from starving countries were places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where almost no one starves. Oil money seems to bring nourishment as well.

And we made a list of how we could make a difference. They included:

  • Donate to organizations that help feed the hungry in your community. One of the things we’ve done is let the kids search for canned goods instead of Easter eggs full of candy. The canned goods then go to Clemson Community Care.
  • Donate to organizations such as Oxfam or Feeding America or UNICEF that help feed the hungry in other communities. The kids collect pocket change during the Halloween season and have an excuse to wear their costume to church.
  • Donate to organizations that teach people how to grow or raise their own food, such as Heifer or Guest at Our Table.
  • Donate your time to local organizations, such as Clemson Community Care.
  • Consider taking advantage of programs that give away food and donating that to food banks. I did this with an Ingle’s turkey that I couldn’t use, but earned through shopping there regularly, something I was going to do anyway.
  • Plant your own garden.
  • Support your local food providers, such as farmers and ranchers. With your support, they will grow more food. Clemson is blessed to have more than one little farmer’s market, including the one at Patrick Square, the one on campus and the Clemson Student Organic Farm. There’s also one in Pendleton, in Easley, in Greenville and in Spartanburg. You can also buy from Upstate Locally Grown or you can buy from the Clemson Area Food Exchange. We even have a co-op in Six Mile. And, while you’re at it, look for local products in your grocery stores. My favorite store carries a generic milk that comes from cows that are local, and they sell local products when they can.
  • Teach others in your community to grow their own food.
  • And, only eat what you need to eat. When you eat more than you need, you are taking food out of the mouths of people that might not have enough.

We were so inspired that we decided to make hunger the focus of our social justice projects for the year. It can touch so many areas of our congregation: green sanctuary, the locovores group, the food bank folks that work with the social justice committee. And kids love food! So why not teach them about good food and why it’s so important?

After all the seriousness, we made a potion. Here’s the recipe:

  1. Boil 2 cups of water and 1 cup sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool.
  2. Pour a small cup half full with the sugar water.
  3. Add some lemon juice or a fruit juice of your choice.
  4. Add some food coloring. The funny thing is the water is so saturated with sugar that it will just sit on top of the water.
  5. Add a spoonful of baking soda. Stir until mixed.
  6. Now, add some vinegar. It should bubble up pretty good.

Taste. Chances are, you’ll toss it. Yes, it’s kind of wasteful and it goes against everything we taught them, but they had fun watching the chemistry lesson. And it made a real pretty green solution!

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