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HERE’S WHAT I’M THINKING: Hunger a 365-day concern

Bridgewater and Area Inter-Church Food Bank co-ordinator John Biddle and his team of dedicated volunteers distribute food and household supplies to more than 550 individuals on a regular basis. - Peter Simpson
Bridgewater and Area Inter-Church Food Bank co-ordinator John Biddle and his team of dedicated volunteers distribute food and household supplies to more than 550 individuals on a regular basis. - Peter Simpson

The folks who volunteer at the many food banks throughout the province deserve a great deal of respect and admiration. Their actions imprint positively on people’s lives at a time of vulnerability.

Hunger does not discriminate. It affects men, women and children of all ages, race and religion. And it is a 365-day social concern, not just at Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving or other holidays.

Last year, Feed Nova Scotia distributed nearly two million kilograms of donated food to 145 food banks, shelters, soup kitchens and meal programs. More than half of the food was perishable.

In an earlier column I wrote that 44,000 individuals in Nova Scotia are supported by food banks annually. To add a South Shore perspective, that number is nearly double the combined populations of Chester, Mahone Bay, Lunenburg, Bridgewater, Liverpool, Shelburne and Yarmouth. Astonishing.

Food banks appreciate donations of food, but they prefer cash donations, which enable organizers to purchase most-needed items, often at a price lower than retail.

Also, donors receive tax receipts.

Also needed are personal hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, deodorant and toilet paper.

This Christmas, instead of giving gifts to relatives or friends, consider making cash donations in their name to a local food bank. My wife’s sister in B.C. donates to a Bridgewater food bank in our name. That’s much better than clothing we’ll never wear, or a household gadget we’ll seldom use.

Here’s what I’m thinking. Follow the sage advice of Mother Teresa, who once said, “if you can’t feed a hundred people, then just feed one.”

Solving the homelessness puzzle

Around this time of year, when the days are shorter and the nights longer and colder, many people pay more attention to the issue of homelessness. Like hunger, homelessness knows no season.

All my adult life I have advocated for improved shelter and services for homeless individuals. My brother – now deceased, the victim of dependencies — was homeless in Toronto for the best part of 30 years, despite constant and costly attempts at intervention by family, friends and social agencies.

I wish I had a dime for every night I had difficulty falling asleep because I was thinking about where baby brother Mark was sleeping, especially during frigid storms that roared into downtown Toronto.

Mark preferred life as he lived it, and he died because of it. He was six years my junior, but looked 20 years my senior. The mean streets and their damaging influences tend to do that to a person.

After Mark passed, I recall driving along a street in Vancouver on my way home from a late meeting. It was a particularly cold night, and the rain was a common occurrence in Lotusland-by-the-Sea.

Passing by a Sleep Country outlet I noticed two people huddled together under an overhang that protected the entrance to the store. The couple was covered by sleeping bags or quilts of some kind.

The irony was not lost on me. Here were two individuals sleeping outdoors on the ground, when just beyond glass doors was a showroom full of comfy mattresses. It was a poignant and tragic scene.

Eliminating homelessness altogether is a struggle. I am heartened, however, that many kind-hearted people and agencies in Nova Scotia are working diligently to move closer to meaningful solutions.

Baseball’s runaway gravy train

Major league baseball is four months away from the first pitch at spring training, so fans will have to wait a little while to start cheering for their favourite gazillionaires.

I watch baseball only during the World Series, when the games start getting interesting, and I tuned in this past fall because the Red Sox were in the hunt, and I happen to like most things about Boston.

Which brings me to what is most bothersome about major league baseball — stratospheric salaries.

I mean, the best hitter in all of baseball fails at his job seven out of 10 times, and the best starting pitcher works only every fifth day, and pitches for five or six innings, if he lasts that long.

The American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2015, Josh Donaldson, got hit with a string of injuries which cut down his playing time to 52 games with Toronto and Cleveland this year. His batting average was .246, which means he failed to get a hit more than seven out of 10 times.

Yet, despite Donaldson’s ouchies, and with his best-before age on the horizon, the Atlanta Braves recently signed the 32-year-old third baseman to a one-year contract worth a whopping $23 million.

Should a player considered damaged goods be given that kind of coin? And in U.S. bucks, no less.

Clayton Kershaw, a left-handed pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, played poorly against the Red Sox in the World Series, losing in the series-ending game five, allowing four runs in seven innings.

Did the Dodgers send the 30-year-old, three-time Cy Young Award winner packing, knowing he had been plagued by a bad back, and that his pitch velocity and effectiveness were seemingly decreasing?

No, the Dodgers rewarded Kershaw with a $93-million, three-year contract. You don’t have to reach for your calculators to figure out this one. That’s $31 million per year. Mind-numbing ridiculousness.

What would baseball players do if all team owners decided to pay each player a maximum $1 million a season going forward, with bonuses for exceptional play, and deductions for poor performances?

How would players earn a living if the current runaway baseball gravy train ground to a halt?

Stars of the past needed off-season jobs to pay bills. Jackie Robinson sold TVs, Lou Brock was a florist, Willie Mays sold cars, Yogi Berra toiled in a hardware store, and Richie Hebner dug graves.

As the great singer-songwriter Bob Dylan often crooned, “the times they are a-changin.’

Peter Simpson is a veteran journalist and former CEO who now lives in Nova Scotia. His latest column, Here’s What I’m Thinking, which chronicles provocative random thoughts on a broad spectrum of topics, appears monthly.

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