As we pulled up to the bookstore for our first official reading of On a Dollar a Day
, I could tell that Kerri was a touch nervous. We'd been on national television, done plenty of radio and print interviews, but this was the first time we'd actually be sharing selections from the book for a public audience.
When we walked in, we could see several people milling around near the signing table, and a few of my students had arrived early in order to stake out their seats right up front. Before long all the seats were full, and as it came time to get started there were so many people that folks were scouring the large chain store for chairs. A few people even took the kiddie chairs from the children's reading section.
The energy in the room was palpable, and I called everyone to attention. I wanted to make sure everyone could hear us, so I shouted to Megan, a vegan-punk store employee, to turn down the Miles Davis that was blaring over the loudspeaker. Then we began.
Kerri started on page one, not reading as much as shouting at the top of her lungs, and as I looked around I couldn't believe what a stir this conversation about food and economics had created. Kerri explained that we started this experiment to see how we could save some money at the grocery store, and that our awareness of global poverty led us to wonder if we could actually eat on a dollar a day.
I picked up with a section where Kerri's frustration at my unwillingness to go back out to the store to pick up a missing ingredient forced her to strip down to her undies in order to prove a point. No longer could I use the excuse "I'm in my underwear" in order to avoid going to the store.
But what happened next was something we never expected. Kerri finished up reading an excerpt about her grocery store days, when she denied taking a woman's larger food stamp coupons because they weren't attached to the book they came in (as the anti-fraud policy required), and the energy in the room shifted. From lively to serious, we had obviously struck a different chord.
As we started to take questions from the audience, it was clear that these deeper issues of what people can do to save money during trying times, of what we can do to identify hunger in our communities, and of course, what we can do to help those in need, were more important than our little experiment. We're often reminded of this when friends, family, and readers of our blog look to us for help or guidance. Sometimes we can help, but other times it's difficult to know what to say.
What we do know is that this conversation is one of the most important ones that we could ever be a part of, and for now, if you're in a position to help those around you, do so. If your community has a resource center that needs help or donations, give. If your state or county has unjust policies about getting access to food stamps, speak up. Most of all, do something. No matter how small, it is important that you do it.