Editor's Note: Due to a technical error, the following column did not appear in the Thursday edition of the Citizen. Ric Latarski's column will be back on Tuesday.
There was a startling picture on the front page of the Rockdale County edition of this newspaper Wednesday. The photograph had a pretty lady in it, but that's not why I noticed it.
No, the subject matter was more startling than the subject, because it was primarily a picture of empty shelves.
That's right. Empty shelves.
Now, I know what you're thinking (I must have ESPN). You are thinking, "Why is a picture of empty shelves so startling?"
As former Georgia Gov. Eugene Talmadge used to say, "I'm a comin' to that."
For you folks who aren't from around here, that means I'm about to tell you.
You see, the shelves in question were at the local food bank. Winter is coming, in case you haven't noticed all the acorns falling from the trees - and winter brings Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. Families will get together and celebrate, and most of those celebrations will center on family feasts. At least they do at our house.
Pretty soon, you will start seeing and hearing all sorts of pleas to help feed the poor and make someone's holiday a little brighter. Most of us will make a contribution and help somebody - or a few somebodies - have a turkey dinner one Thursday afternoon. We'll pat ourselves on the back, feel good inside and then promptly forget about the hungry until the next holiday season and the next round of appeals for help.
But here's the thing, y'all. Thanksgiving and Christmas only come around once a year, but folks get hungry every day.
Think about it. How many times a day do you eat? And when was the last time you gave a second thought to what you would eat?
Now, I'm not talking about poring over a menu and trying to choose between the lobster thermador or the chateaubriand - or even the fried chicken or the roast beef. I mean when have you wondered when and if you would get to eat on a particular day?
Some folks think that I am obsessed with food. My lovely wife, Lisa, is one of them. I eat all the time. I'm not talking three squares a day, either. I eat all day, every day, and have the figure to show for it. I visit the supermarket so often that I am on a first-name basis with most of the clerks. In fact, I went out of town for a week recently, and the manager of Publix sent me a get-well card. The lady at Kroger that helps people with the self-checkout went by the hospital to check up on me.
Sometimes I go to the store just to look at the food, and it is not unusual for me - and my friends - to start planning Wednesday's meal while finishing up Tuesday's.
We never eat leftovers, either. We throw away tons of food every day.
If the truth be known, I bet there are more of you out there whose eating habits mirror mine than don't. And while I am eating myself into oblivion throughout the week, I never give a second thought to the fact that there are lots and lots of people - right here in our community - who don't have enough to eat, don't know where their next meal is coming from and - worst of all - don't know how they are going to feed their children supper.
These people, a lot of them, rely on the food bank from time to time, and now the shelves of the food bank are bare, and we ought to be ashamed.
After I saw the shocking picture on the front page of the paper, I dug out the yellow pages of the local telephone directory. I wanted to see how many churches there are in the Newton-Rockdale area. I couldn't get the exact number, even after taking off my shoes to count on my toes - but there are more than 200 churches listed, for various Christian denominations.
More than 200 churches whose members worship Jesus who said "if you love me, feed my sheep," and the shelves of the local food bank are empty.
That don't make a lick of sense.
Here's what I think we ought to do. I think we all need to go shopping. Don't just dig around in your closet and get all the leftover beans that you didn't make chili out of last winter. Let's buy as much good food as we can afford, and let's take it down to the Rockdale Emergency relief on Tall Oaks Drive (Newton Co. probably needs food, too) and let's make those shelves "runneth over."
In fact, let's take them so much food that they call the paper next week and ask them to come and take another picture of the pretty lady and the food bank shelves - this time with a full storehouse.
Take it from me. You'll get a bigger blessing than the folks you feed. I guarantee it.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author and educator. He can be reached at dHuck08@bellsouth.net.