Beggars at the banquet

It is nine in the morning here in Landschlacht, Switzerland.

It´s cold, damp and foggy here by the shore of the Lake of Constance.

I have a headache, but have taken medicine from a bathroom stocked with medicines for any type of illness real or imagined, present or potential.

The guest room of our four-bedroom apartment, where the light is best for early morning writing, is cooler than the rest of our flat, but I have the option of putting on more clothes or turning up the heat.

I have a busy work week ahead of me, yet I still have leisure hours I can use as I choose.

Though I spend much of my leisure time alone, I know I am not cut off from the world.

I have access to the world via electronics, though I am aware that what news I receive from the outside is limited by the media who decides what is news and how the news is filtered.

My wife, though distant in Zürich, is happily working away at her job as a children´s doctor and providing the income that makes the partnership with a freelance teacher / part-time barista financially viable.

I am hungry and thirsty, but only a few steps away is a small kitchen with a fully-stocked refridgerator and freezer.

The greatest danger is not the shortage of food, as it is the overabundance of food, meaning some food will go bad before I am quick enough to eat it.

The water from the taps is clean, and though I know I should drink more of it, I will probably make myself some instant coffee and later drink some cola for that additional, teeth-rotting, sugar rush.

All in all, though I would not complain too loudly if I won the Euro Millions lottery, I enjoy a good life.

I examine my life this morning as I think about yesterday.

I met, for the first time, our latest addition to Team Starbucks St. Gallen Bahnhof, brother to my co-worker Vanessa of Macedonia, Samir.

Like most of us in the Team, Samir´s origins are exotic and far superior to the humble position of barista.

In our Team, we have three South Americans, a Macedonian, a Slovenian, two Poles, a Serbian, an Englishman, a Berber, eight Swiss and, yours truly, a Canadian.

Most are married and half of those married have children.

Some of us have educational qualfications far beyond what is needed to work at a Starbucks.

Seven men, twelve women, serving a clientele that is 80% female.

We fight and work together like a typical dysfunctional family.

Our histories are also as exotic as our origins.

Of those foreign-born I know, I count two former beauty queens, two persons fleeing oppression from their homelands, five here in Switzerland for an economically better life than their native lands could provide, two here because their spouses are Swiss or chose Switzerland for their career.

And despite that our histories are strangely different and disconnected to our present employment, we have learned to focus on our present situations and do our job to the best of our individual capacities.

Samir is, of the seven men working here, the quietest of our bunch, but my sympathetic nature has warmed many the heart of introverts, so we did have some snippets of conversation during the course of our demanding workday.

He talked about his life here and back in Slovenia and Macedonia where he once lived and worked.

We both agreed that no matter how imperfect our lives may be, there exist others whose lives are much much worse.

I was reminded of the story of Gloria of Mozambique, as told in Michael Norton´s 365 Ways to Change the World: How to Make a Difference One Day at a Time:

“Gloria is surviving on the edge.

It wouldn´t take much for her life to fall apart.

She lives in Mozambique, where she grows crops on a small plot of land.

The “mashamba” is not much, but most years she can produce enough corn, nuts, eggplant, carrots and kale to feed her three children.

She even owns a few chickens.

Unfortunately Gloria doesn´t earn enough money to send her children to school.

Her oldest, Eduardo, is 9 and desperate to learn how to read and write.

Gloria would do anything to educate him, but she simply can´t afford it.

Besides, this year, she needs his help in the field.

Formerly, her husband gathered the harvest with her, but he died.

People say it could have been AIDS, but she can´t be sure.

She misses her husband – now more than ever.

As she looks forward to the next harvest, she worries about the weather.

The rains were not good this year.

Things could get even tougher.”

Earth produces enough food to feed every woman, man and child on the planet.

The problem is that the food does not reach everybody who needs it.

People go hungry as a result of drought or conflict.

Some folks are just too poor to buy enough food to keep them alive and healthy.

Children are particularly at risk.

Malnutrition stunts their physical and mental development and makes them more prone to disease.

We in Switzerland dine like kings, often enjoying three course meals, often overstuffing ourselves and suffer from obesity.

Yet we complain and curse our fates in life.

In other lands, some sit on chairs and are fortunate enough to dine on rice and beans both delicious and nutritious.

But in much of the world, there are no tables, there are no chairs, and meals are simply rice and water.

Billions of poor people throughout the world are undernourished and will go to bed tonight hungry.

Not all will survive till morning.

My headache is passing as the medicine kicks in and the fog outside is slowly clearing.

As I enjoy the luxury of my place and moment in life, I think about Gloria and Eduardo.

May it be raining in Mozambique.




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