Week 42: Quantum Physics and Hunger: Combating Poverty through Family-to-Family
Quantum physics contains a theory of entanglement, where two particles originating from a single source – for example, two electrons created from the energy of a collision – are created with a special kind of never-ending connection (communication) between them. Whatever happens to one of the particles instantaneously affects and changes the other (and vice versa).
What is amazing about this connection beyond its timelessness (instantly and forever) is that it is nonlocal, meaning no matter how far apart the particles travel from each other, even if they travel across the universe from each other, the connection never fades. They always mirror each other. They are forever intertwined… separate particles connected as one across space and time.
I believe this is our story. Whether your understanding of the creation of the Universe comes from a religious or scientific viewpoint, all matter was created from one single source – either the Big Bang or through Divine creation. We all came from that single source, and so are separate beings but entangled with each other across time and space. Everything in our physical world is inseparable… connected to everything else. This connection is not restricted geographically, or by our personal environments, or experiences. We may have been wrenched apart by fate, born to different families, living in different circumstances, in different countries, following different spiritualties/religions, but we are all interconnected. We all share feelings of love for our children, fear of the unknown, desire to be healthy and happy. We are social. We are emotional. We are playful. We communicate. All human DNA is 99.9% the same….. Our connection is deeper than our diversity.
My husband and I began talking about how to expand our perspective on what it means to authentically connect with others. What responsibilities we felt that brought. We questioned the idea of a human universal and the ways of understanding how individual actions can change the lives of others in a meaningful way. We looked to find interconnectedness in the space created by a sense of common humanity and mutual respect. In all of that, we decided to explore a specific theme in depth. We chose poverty, and as a subset of that… hunger. We read, attended lectures, researched and got involved with organizations who work with families at or below the poverty line (food pantries, shelters, etc.). We got to know people experiencing life at or below the poverty level. We wanted to understand life through their eyes, and build a connection of empathy and support.
This is how we came across Family-to-Family (FTF), a grassroots organization dedicated to providing food, personal hygiene products and other basic life essentials to American families struggling with the challenges of poverty. FTF focuses on bringing results to one family at a time and have several different programs that link families in need with donor families. We chose to sign up for the Sponsor-a-Family program. After registering on-line we were connected with a family in need. Each month an automatic credit card donation is charged and used to purchase either food or a supermarket card for the family. FTF puts parameters on what the families can buy with the funds – it must be healthy, nutritious items like meats, vegetables, fruit, dairy. They are not permitted to use the funds for soda, sweets and other items and they need to show their monthly receipts in order to receive the next month’s card.
In addition to the monthly automatic donation, FTF encourages sending letters, small gifts, and other items which the family cannot purchase with their supermarket cards or SNAP funds (food stamps), such as shampoo, toothpaste, soap and other toiletries.
The program is a one year commitment. For us, it was an easy decision to give up a couple of meals out at a restaurant a month so that a food-insecure family can have nutritious food on the table.
My husband and I were assigned a single parent family in Louisiana with several children under the age of 18. FTF offers a lot of support and guidance around how to interact with your family. They even suggest monthly ideas for the extra shopping items (June, for example, is the month they recommend you send book bags and school supplies). FTF also promotes increasing literacy. Many food-insecure families cannot afford books for their children so FTF suggests donor families send monthly books to the children to help build a library for the family.
We have already learned much about the family we are sponsoring and are excited to have the opportunity to share in celebrations with them, send them clothing, school supplies, birthday gifts and more (there are parameters sponsoring families must adhere to when sending items). We hope to be able to help the family in other ways should the opportunity arise.
FTF currently helps hundreds of families in 29 US communities in 18 states and provides over 30,000 meals a month nation-wide.
In addition to the Sponsor-a-Family program, FTF also runs several other hands-on, connection programs, including several Literacy programs, such as:
- One Book at a Time – which links donors with specific children and you send one book a month. 400+ children are in the program and recipient children have received over 8,000 new books in total.
- Books for Life – where 27,000 gently used books shipped or delivered to US communities in need by FTF donors since 2003.
- Birthday Boxes – Families who have to make choices between paying the rent, buying food, or paying electric bills, cannot afford birthday parties for their children. You can volunteer to create and fill boxes with all the supplies a family needs to throw a birthday party (cake, icing, small gift, favors, balloons, etc.). To date, over 9,400 boxes have been created and donated to needy families.
There are many other ways to help, including a myriad of opportunities to involve your children, their schools, their peer groups and more.
FTF was created in 2002 by Pam Koener, who read a series of NY Times articles on poverty in the US and was moved to do something to help. She reached out to an outreach worker of one of the towns highlighted in the article and was given the names of 17 of the neediest families. She then convinced 16 friends and neighbors to join her, sending monthly boxes of food and letters to the families. From there the program has grown to over 900 families in the Sponsor-a-Family program.
FTF also pitches in during catastrophes. For example, after Hurricane Katrina, FTF started “In the Bag”, linking over 1,000 displaced Katrina families to matching donor families who shipped basic necessities like blankets, dishes and clothing to families who’d lost almost everything. They’ve helped families during many natural disasters and have held special drives for things such as backpack/school-supply drives for the children of Flint, Michigan.
My husband and I talk often about society’s reliance on the government to solve problems like immigration, hunger, poverty, healthcare. We both believe there are many situations and problems where individual citizens can act and change things from a grassroots level and not have to rely on the government.
Fresh perspectives and a motivation to dig in are both needed. We want to explore how we fit in that and how it ties into building our life and relationship. Our participation with FTF is one avenue.
Each individual is an integral part of all that we experience each day. We can become much more than observers watching the universe happen around us, passing through moments of time in a creation that already exists. Connections exist and flourish because of us. I want to build a radically different interpretation of my relationship to the world I live in. I want intent around it.
In quantum physics, experiments have shown that the act of simply looking at something as tiny as an electron changes it properties (think Schrödinger’s Cat). Just focusing our awareness on what a particle is doing, even for just one instance in time, actually changes its behavior. Thus, the very act of observation becomes an act of creation. If this happens at the atomic level imagine the impact of tapping into this powerful force at the societal level. It happens when we allow ourselves a new way of seeing our role in the world. And what my husband and I are realizing is that it does not have to be something huge. Just reaching out across space and time, extending compassion and kindness to one family at a time, cutting through the diversity of our experiences, has ripple effects that can change the world. When you touch someone’s heart through kindness something wonderful happens – – you develop an emotional attachment with them. The atoms of your presence in the universe becomes entangled with theirs. Across space. Across time. And together you build something new.
To learn more about Family-to-Family, please visit their website at: https://www.family-to-family.org/