Rhonda Cagle

Posts Tagged ‘Phoenix’

Readers Bring Hometown Heart to Big City

In Uncategorized on September 13, 2012 at 8:59 am

Life is busy.

Living in a big city filled with the hustle and bustle of 3.2 million people makes it seem even more so. But the people who let me tell their stories, and the responses of neighbors who read them, brings our community together. It’s readers’ responses to my past columns make our big city feel like a hometown.

Photo courtesy of: lovethatmax.com

Read about it in my latest column for the Arizona Republic.http://www.azcentral.com/community/swvalley/articles/2012/09/07/20120907cagle-past-columns-bringing-valley-residents-together.html

Once Upon A Time

In Uncategorized on February 4, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Strangely enough, I feel compelled to begin today’s musings with the words, “Once upon a time…” Even at the ripe old age of 42, these words still coax a smile from my lips. They form some of the earliest memories of my childhood and served as imagination’s gateway to fairytale lands and adventures filled with princesses in peril and dashing princes rushing headlong into danger on magnificent white horses. So real were those worlds and words, I became convinced at an early age that everyone’s life story should begin with the words, “Once upon a time,” and end with, “and they lived happily ever after.”

It sucks to grow up and realize that beautiful princesses sometimes turn into lonely, exiled queens and mighty white steeds eventually become sway-backed old hacks. Somewhere in between your first kiss and first child, you discover Prince Charming’s inability to put down the toilet seat and realize that stately old castle is, in reality, a drafty, leaky, crumbling money-pit. These are the tragedies of growing up and out of an instinctual tendency to romanticize the surrounding world. It’s sad – even for a 42-year-old. But it’s downright cruel when life’s hard lessons begin before childhood ends.

I am passionate about the right of children to be just that – children. Carefree. Imaginative. Innocent. It breaks my heart that too many of them never get the chance to thrill to the hope of “once upon a time,” let alone have a shot at “happily ever after.”

Yesterday, I once again came face-to-face with that reality as I sat in a meeting with a group of volunteers forming a partnership with a local school. We were there because almost 20% of the children in attendance don’t have enough to eat. They often miss meals at nights and on weekends. This group of vigilante volunteers has the audacity to believe that children going to bed hungry in this, the most prosperous country on earth, is unconscionable, not to mention unacceptable. So we’re doing something about it.

For quite awhile, I listened as the principal described the needs of the children – dozens of them literally homeless; 33-percent of them so transient, they won’t even complete a single school year at that location; more than 97-percent of the students qualifying for the federal free and reduced lunch program due to poverty. And then this principal said something that stunned me. “We make hard decisions all the time. If you don’t have enough money to feed all of our kids, we understand. We’ll appreciate whatever you can give and decide who gets to eat and who doesn’t.”

Stop and consider the enormity of those words. Please put yourself in the position of having to choose which hungry children eat and which ones don’t. Now you know what I felt like sitting across the table from that principal. But even that is nothing compared to what the children feel everyday as hunger eclipses the promise of their young lives and starves any hope of “happily ever after.”

More than anything, I want to be able to look that principal in the eyes and tell him hunger isn’t an option. I want to turn the page in the lives of these children and create that once upon a time moment when hunger is turned into hope.

What about you?

Right now, Kitchen on the Street – an all-volunteer non-profit agency – is feeding more than 280 children every week at nine local schools. We’d like to add these children to that list. With your help, it’s possible.

On Saturday, March 6th at 9 a.m., we’re holding our annual fundraising hike at North Mountain Park in Phoenix. We’re committed to raising $5,000 so we can turn hunger into hope in the lives of children. If you live in the Phoenix area, please register for the hike and/or give a gift that will feed local children. Your gift is tax-deductible and there is no greater return on investment than knowing you’ve turned hunger into hope in the life of a child!

In two weeks, I’ll be meeting again with this principal. I’ll walk down the halls of the school and look into the eyes of children who cannot envision the possibility of consistent meals. He’s going to ask me how many of them we’ll be able to feed. I’m praying I’ll be able to answer, “All of them.” That’s the happily ever after for which I’m praying.

To learn more about the Dennis Cagle Hike for Hunger benefitting Kitchen on the Street or to make a tax-deductible donation, please visit http://www.kitchenonthestreet.org.

The Stories We Tell

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2010 at 1:33 am

It’s strange how the lives of people I’ve never met become part of who I am. Like ghosts of past or parallel lives, they haunt my existence, piquing my curiosity about matters of ethics, morality, faith, and beauty. Sometimes they are saints who come alive through their writings; others are artists, capturing for my eyes and soul the beauty illuminated and translated through their own. Frequently, these ghosts both frustrate and inspire me, causing me to stretch to become a better version of the person I am at the moment.

For several weeks now, I’ve been thinking about one of these people – a little girl I know through Dennis. He met her in the “cafegymatorium” at one of the schools he led. The lunch lady called Dennis and asked him to come and talk to a kid who was acting “funny.” Dennis went in and saw a little girl quietly going from table to table, picking through the food left behind by the other children. “Honey, what are you doing?” Dennis asked her. Shyly, the little girl explained to Dennis that she and her brothers and sisters didn’t have enough to eat at home. She was collecting leftovers to try and find enough food to feed them some sort of dinner.

When Dennis came home from work that night, he told me this little girl’s story. He spoke of her big eyes. He was incredulous and angry that the hunger in this little girl’s stomach was eclipsing the promise of her young life. As he spoke of her, he began to weep, tears running down his cheeks. He held my hand and asked, “How is she supposed to do well in school when she doesn’t know where her next meal is coming from? How can she learn when she’s hungry?”

Dennis could not forget this young child, and it was no surprise that it was her story he told when our friends, Lisa and Vince, had us over for dinner and asked how things were going at his schools. They listened quietly – as Dennis liked to say, they listened with their hearts. And that night, the little girl’s story became part of their own.

It wasn’t long after that dinner that Dennis and I learned he was fighting cancer – and three weeks later he was gone. But a few days before he died, Lisa and Vince sent Dennis an email telling him that because he had cared enough to tell her story, the little girl – and many more like her – would no longer be hungry. They had been inspired to found Kitchen on the Street, an all-volunteer agency that partners with schools to provide weekend/evening meals to children who would otherwise go hungry. Dennis cried when he learned that dozens of children were being fed each week. Today, that number has grown to more than 250 children every week being fed through Kitchen on the Street.

I never met this little girl. And for months after Dennis died, I was too overwhelmed with grief and exhaustion to care much about the efforts of the agency inspired by her story. But, like my husband, I couldn’t forget her. Still can’t. Her life… her plight… her story continues to haunt me. And now, she has become a part of who I am. This little girl, with her big eyes and heavy heart, both pleads with and demands for me to continue helping – not so much for her anymore, but for the thousands of children like her who go to bed every night with the pain of hunger gnawing in their stomachs and hearts.

This Thursday night, I’ll have the opportunity to share her story with hundreds of people who will be gathering for a jazz concert benefiting Kitchen on the Street. Hopefully through my words, they’ll see her big eyes… feel her hunger… and find her story becoming part of their own.

If you live in the Phoenix area, I invite you to join me at “Jazz Under the Stars,” a benefit concert for Kitchen on the Street. To learn more about KOS and the concert, please visit their website, http://www.KitchenOnTheStreet.org.

Originally written October 13, 2009

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