Hungry heart

I mentioned earlier this week Bubby's momentary thrill upon hearing his tummy growl. "Did you hear that, Gramma?" he said to me. "The baby in my tummy went RAAAAR!" Such a sweet sound of confusion coming from my grandson who thought there was a baby in his tummy, not realizing he was just hungry.

Bubby's empty stomach was a source of amusement, not pain. Other than crying as an infant when he was hungry or simply stating "I want something," as he often does now when he wants to snack, I think it was the first time Bubby was aware of his stomach growling.

I distinctly recall the first time I knew what it felt like to be so hungry it hurt. It was the early '70s and my family was packed in the station wagon, driving from Minnesota to Florida. We were on our way to Disneyworld, the one and only time all seven kids and both parents went on a true family vacation. Across several state lines. To a place every kid dreams of going. Just like normal families do.

My dad was -- still is -- a "drive straight through" kind of traveler. So with all seven of us kids making the most of the limited space allotted each, our pale green station wagon with seating for nine ticked off the miles. "Delta Dawn" and "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" played on the AM radio, and visions of Mickey Mouse, Haunted Mansion and Cinderella's castle danced in our heads as we headed south, paying no heed to the national gas shortage.

Restaurant stops were few and far between, due equally to the desire to knock out miles as well as my parents dreading the logistics of seating nine -- and paying for nine -- in a dining establishment. At one point, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, I recall waking from having dozed off in the backseat. My arm on which I'd slept was drenched in drool, my stomach clenched and uncomfortable. When I complained about the sensation and voiced worries that I was going to throw up, my sister snarled that it's nothing, that I was just hungry, to be quiet.

So I was quiet. And waited. And marveled that this, my aching gut, was what all those hungry kids in Africa must feel and why they'd be happy to have the food my siblings and I often picked at instead of eating.

Eventually a restaurant appeared on the horizon and all was soon right with the world in general and my growling stomach in particular.

I was blessed to not know true hunger, to not feel such pangs and worse on a regular basis. I was fortunate that the discomfort of not having enough food was so rare that I can recall one specific incident, not a childhood marked by it. I was lucky that the lack of food was due to traveling -- going to Disneyworld, for heaven's sake -- not poverty.

The same goes for Bubby. He's fortunate that the only reason the baby in his tummy "raaaared" was because he had refused to eat what he'd been given for lunch. A lunch that included many options from which to choose, many morsels to fill his tiny tummy. He had made a conscious choice to not partake.

Not all children are as lucky as Bubby is. Or I was. Not all children giggle at the noises from their tummies; many cry as their tummies gurgle and groan.

Thoughts of those gurgles and groans make my heart hurt.

Today's question:

With the holidays -- and requests for holiday donations -- bearing down upon us, what charities do you typically help out this time of year?