The season is upon us again. Not the changing of the leaves. Not the very end of a hurricane period that seemed to have been a quiet one, only to strike with a vengeance in the eleventh hour. Not the time of turkeys and pumpkins. No, the season that I am referring to comes only once every four years—the moment to elect a president of the United States.
This past summer, I had the privilege of meeting with key staff in both the Obama and Romney campaigns. In those conversations, which took place with several other faith-based NGO leaders, we talked about one thing above all else: The preservation of U.S. aid for the world’s poor.
Now, that might sound like a very minor, even strange, issue for a president to be concerned about at the moment. Certainly, there are more pressing problems that demand a president’s attention, such as the unemployment rate in the U.S., the stubbornly expanding federal debt or the feeling that most Americans seem to have that, despite their redoubled efforts to get ahead, they appear to be falling further behind in their quest to achieve the American dream. And while those are very real concerns that need to figure into the reasons for selecting one candidate over another in the upcoming election, they are not the things that we chose to bring to the attention of the campaign staff.
In Food for the Hungry (FH), we witness every single day in communities all over the developing world the massive needs that people face. We see old women and young girls who walk ten miles to fetch water from a dirty pond and take it back to their families to drink. We walk with thousands of families that are living on less than $1.25 a day. We weep with mothers who have buried yet another small child that has died of easily treatable causes like diarrhea or a respiratory infection. We scan the bleak corn fields of a men who have lost their entire crop, yet again, to drought.
There is an interesting comparison that can be drawn from the rich nation/poor nation scenario above. In the early church period, after the death and resurrection of Christ, the Apostles James, Peter and John presided over largely economically poor churches in Judea, while the Apostle Paul oversaw far richer churches in Gentile cities throughout Asia Minor. The Bible records that “the only thing [James, Peter and John] asked [Paul] to do was to remember the poor.” And Paul faithfully delivered that same message to the rich churches that he founded all across Asia: You have been blessed with much, so be a channel of blessing to others who have little.
My message to the presidential candidates on the eve of this important election is the same: Don’t forget the mantle that America has always worn from the beginning of her founding—to be a source of hope and help for the poor. In the run-up to election day, let’s take a higher road by asking not what the presidential candidates can do for us, but what they can do for others who are less fortunate.