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The Tea and Bread Lady

Story ID:2467
Written by:Suzana Margaret Megles (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:various various various
Year:1999
Person:various
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The Tea and Bread Lady

I was in a "blue funk" yesterday and I realized it doesn't take much for me to get into one. Because of my new/old renter- (Weegie), the telephone company disconnected my phone. They were only suppose to disconnect the phone upstairs where, before Weegie came, I had a dial-up second phone for my computer.

It was so easy for me to blame Weegie and/or the telephone company but, in reality, I began to realize it was mostly my own fault. I should have taken care of this matter myself. What's the big deal you may be wondering? Well -
two things -try calling the telephone company and getting all those automated questions and never being able to resolve your problem until "gloriously" a human voice finally comes on. And secondly, my concern was not so much
for being disconnected (I at first thought I needed a new phone) but possibly losing the number we had for over 50 years! Thankfully, after wrongly believing I had FRUITLESSLY made contact with At& t, the phone was working the next morning!

Putting things in perspective - that's really the name of the game and I have much to learn. Yesterday, the news broke of an irate family man and Cleveland fireman shooting 3 young people next door to him because they were making too
much noise on the 4th of July. And I was worried about a lost telephone number!
This man took three innocent lives causing a great deal of pain and anguish to their families as well as certainly to his own. They found a number of guns in his home. Someone in a blog said - why all the guns? This isn't the 18th century. This idea of the right to bear arms had a totally different meaning then and now.
I totally agreed with this insightful rationale.

This morning after liturgy and feeling relieved that "my huge problem" was resolved, I decided to read the July Guideposts. Work could wait - I needed some relaxing and inspirational reading. What's more important than restored peace even after such a "trivial" concern?

I found a story that I immediately loved. Pam tells her story of how she came to be involved with the orphans and street children of Harare, Zimbabwe. How and why she got there is an interesting story in itself, but the part which intrigued me most was what came after she got there. On every street and in every park she
saw ragged, barefoot, starving children begging for food.

Even though she felt the missionaries' work was noble, she felt that the problems seemed insurmountable. She was surprised and happy though to learn that one dear lady whom the children called the "The Tea and Bread Lady" tried to help them out. Intrigued by the notion of a tea and bread lady, Pam and David, her husband rose early the next morning to track her down. They roamed the streets until they found
a group of barefoot children gathered around an old smoke-spewing car. Joan, a white South African woman was pouring tea from a steaming vat into the dirty soda bottles or plastic cups the children had pilfered from trash cans. Tiny desperate hands reached out for the chunks of crusty white bread she brought with the hot tea.

At first Pam felt a crushing disapointment which surprisingly soon turned to anger. Was this all the children could hope for -some tea in dirty bottles and crusts of bread? But then she and David realized that this was indeed more then others were doing and they began helping to hand out the bread.

She began to question Joan about having any kind of budget or institutional backing. The answer was in the negative, and Joan pointed to the smoking car-grateful that it still held up for her daily mission. Pam asked her if anyone had offered to help her. She answered wearily that people do come to Africa to help but then they leave -- probably overcome by all the misery and a sense of hopelessness.

And then she added: "I'll tell you what I want--someone to make a lasting commitment to these children. We don't need drive-by charities, but help for as long as they need." Pam continued to watch Joan as she turned back to her tea. Feelings stirred inside her much like the tea churning in the steaming vat. Who she wondered was going to come forward to help this woman and where was she to get the money she needed?
And then Pam turned to God: "Lord, I demanded, is this some kind of cruel joke? Why aren't you helping this lady? Why don't you send someone?"

Then in the silence she heard a voice: "I did. I sent you." ( I don't cry often but I did when I read that line.) For a moment she pretended she hadn't heard those words, but then she looked at David and then the children. And finally she touched the Tea Lady's arm and said "Ma'am, what do you need? We're going to help you."

Back in Nashville, Tennessee where David is a minister, he preached a sermon about the Tea and Bread Lady. Donations poured in --enough to supply her with a regular budget. A church couple offered to buy her a car. Pam had also written to an outreach ministry who said they would put up matching funds for a building where Joan could hold classes and provide services to homeless mothers.

Pam has returned to Zimbabwe many times since her first visit there eight years ago. Each time she finds the Tea and Bread Lady's ministry growing and thriving. With an infusion of more money, Keri joined Pam in working to expand their donor network out into the community. They were able to help another budding Zimbabwean philantropist --a cab driver named Paddington, to coax orphans off the street with offers of housing and schooling.

Now Paddington, a former government agronomist recently bought a farm with donated money and he and his wife, Alice, provide 14 orphans with a communal home. On a visit to their farm called Village Hope, Pam saw Alice hoeing in a garden with some of the children. Others were tending to the chickens and the goats. For Pam this was indeed a place of hope and she felt deeply at peace. And who wouldn't? She never had misgivings in responding to an unexpected call from God those 8 years ago. What a blessing to see the fruits of one's labors. Now all we need is more Tea and Bread Ladies and more people like Pam and David.

THE HEIFER INTERNATIONAL PROJECT

You may think that now is the appropriate time for me to make a plug for the HIP. Sadly, you would be wrong --dead wrong. I believe that this project is cruel to the animals and conceived as a way for farmers to make money. But despite my "cynical" views, you might be thinking --don't they provide necessary food for the people who reap the rewards of this undertaking? Well, as a vegan, I believe that most of these people did thrive in the past with a needed supply of grain and vegetables. In my
opinion, their pressing needs are accessible water and knowledge of proven farming practices to feed their families. Why would we want to introduce them to meat which is being recognized daily by some nutritionists and doctors as not being the most healthful type of food?

I can never write with as much insight and literary acumen as Merritt Clifton who with his wife Kim Bartlett publish ANIMAL PEOPLE. He wrote 5 pages to the elementary school which was trying to coerce students-- including their son Wolf to participate in HIP fundraising. What he wrote deserves more than paraphrasing. But I will just copy those paragraphs which for me were the most meaningful. I hope you will read them too despite perhaps feelings to the contrary. His description of life growing up on a Canadian farm also gives credence to his views and the depths of his sensitivity.

MERRITT CLIFTON ON THE HEIFER INTERNATIONAL PROJECT:

"...HIP, as regards trying to eliminate world hunger, is part of the problem rather than part of the solution. This is no original insight of mine. Mohandas Gandhi identified rising per capita meat consumption by the rich and middle classes as a major cause of starvation by the poor--and warned that even if the poor could afford to eat meat at the rate of the rich, THE EARTH MIGHT NOT WITHSTAND THE STRAIN OF PRODUCING SO MUCH GRAIN TO FEED LIVESTOCK. Paul Erlich and Frances Moore Lappe warned as far back as the 1960s that U.S.-led efforts to promote more animal husbandry in the underdeveloped world were deeply misguided.

HIP raises funds by appealing to the myth of Old MacDonald's Farm, where all the animals were supposedly treated kindly, before they were eaten. Recipients of their literature who may know the truth of how nearly 10 billion animals per year are raised and killed for meat in the US (approximately a third of the total global slaughter) are encouraged to believe that Old MacDonald's Farm may still exist somewhere abroad. If Old Macdonald's Farm still exists anywhere, we have not seen it, in visits to rural regions of every continent. But then, it never did--not as city-dwellers imagine it.

I know the actuality of Old Macdonald's Farm because I lived on such a farm for many years in rural Quebec. I shoveled manure by hand, helped to feed cows, chickens, ducks, sheep, and hogs, chopped firewood with an ax, baled hay, and drank warm milk straight from the milking bucket--and I saw what really went on there, ........
Old MacDonald drowned kittens, shot dogs, chopped the heads off chickens, slashed pigs'
throats, flogged his horses when in a bad mood --and tacked coyotes' bullet-riddled hides
to the barn door, below the deer skulls.

Inheriting the remnants of this barnyard paradise, Old Mac's sons built pig or chicken
factories under contract to conglomerates, or pushed calves into veal crates. (I stopped
drinking milk in 1982 when my stomach rebelled after hearing cows bawl for the calves, as the calves bawled back from the truck taking them away.)

On Old MacDonald's farm, the process of denial began with encouraging children to hunt and trap, and to bond with animals raised as 4-H projects--animals who the children were later forced to tearfully sell for slaughter. Elsewhere, the initiation rite is roughing up
animals in amateur rodeos.....Desensitizing methods vary from place to place. Within
the Third World, they include public rites such as animal sacrifice, ....bullfighting in Spain, France, and Latin America, and beating, burning, or boiling dogs and cats to death in Korea before eating them, to name just a few of the atrocities we are farmiliar with.

Around the world, societies that practice animal husbandry are desensitized societies. The abuse of animals inevitably spills over in the treatment of women and children. Polgamy, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, and slavery persist in many of the very regions that HIP serves, for example, as extensions of common agricultural practice to those of our own species who are least able to protect theselves."

I think you'll agree that Merritt Clifton is gifted with words. But more than that he and
his family are compassionate and sensitive beings. I am glad that I share so many of his thoughts and I am also glad that I have been vegetarian/vegan for the last 30 years. It is a myth that one needs animal flesh to survive. I'm 76 and I don't use drugs. Yes, I do take supplements which I believe are largely natural. But health concerns were never the reason for becoming a vegetarian.

If you are interested in reading Merritt Clifton's complete letter to his son's school re
HIP, you will find it on all-creatures.org.

Re the picture- I found an old Enquirer which told of a wonderful farm where there are 380 ANIMALS who are used as COUNSELORS for 102 emotionally troubled kids given another chance because of the wonderful vision of Dr. Sam Ross and his wife Myra. Started in 1947 THREE GREEN CHIMNEYS is still in operation and can be found
on the internet. I just loved the picture of
this child obviously bonding with this huge porker.