It's that time of year again! Last year, your generosity amounted to an awe-inspiring $27,755! Those donations were used to sustain solutions to the disturbingly prevalent issue of hunger in Massachusetts: supporting community-based programs to directly provide residents with access to food, helping residents navigate existing federal nutrition programs, investing in research, and more. Like every year, I feel incredibly honored to be a part of Project Bread's mission to abolish hunger in Massachusetts.
I dedicate my annual participation in the Walk for Hunger to my sister, Shaira Ali, who passed away in 2012. This year, as I brainstormed how I might frame my fundraising appeal, I was forced into a confrontation with the terrible perpetuity of my grief; though seven years have passed, the wound feels fresh every time I recall my loss. This acknowledgement elicited a sense of futility that felt antithetical to the enthusiasm and hopefulness implicit in any act of charity, and so I struggled to write anything at all.
My world is fundamentally different than it was when my sister was alive. Some structural divergences, like that I'm in college and our little brother is a legal adult, contribute to a feeling of alienation toward the life I shared with her. Other features, like the chronic solitariness I feel, are direct results of losing her and so contribute to my feeling of estrangement. Lastly, and perhaps most disorienting, I am increasingly surrounded by people who never even knew she existed.
Nevertheless, I miss her the same, and feel thusly betrayed by the proverb which holds that time heals all wounds. I took solace in this prospect in the excruciating years right after her death, hoping that as the part of my life I shared with her receded into my past, the memories becoming increasingly fuzzy and stale, the emotional devastation would follow suit. But, as I discovered, this principle only goes so far and nothing can change the tragic reality.
It is very difficult to accept that grief is now a fixed aspect of my psyche, the experience being a necessary end in itself, and that there is nothing I can ever do to fully ameliorate the horrendous pain of missing my sister. The stubborn persistence of my grief brings to mind da Vinci's famous words, "when once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been and there you will always long to return."
At first glace, this proclamation is as eloquent as it it nihilistic. That sentiment upset me and explains the resistance I felt to writing this page. But when I finally mustered the resilience to sit down and work through it, I was induced to consider the conceptual parallels between grief, philanthropy, and whatever da Vinci was responding to. This led me to think differently...
We are all aware that the societal need for charity has been universal throughout history. Nevertheless, we don't give charity with the expectation that once we give enough, we won't have to anymore. Instead, we support charities in order to alleviate the suffering of today - a worthy end in itself. Just as it is valuable to act philanthropically without expecting to solve society's problems, it is valid to duly care for oneself without anticipating perfect health. Further, just as it would be unreasonable to reject any blemished mentality, it would be misguided to consider utopias the only healthy and decent societies.
I feel so honored to carry on this tradition of fundraising in loving memory of my sister. Project Bread provides indispensable services to those in need across Massachusetts. Last year, Walk for Hunger participants raised $2.4 million to support solutions to this problem, which shockingly affects 1 in 10 residents in the state. Your support will empower this effective organization to continue its valuable, virtuous work. Please consider making a contribution!
"Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can."