The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


February 8, 2008

Cookies for sale

I’m waiting, perhaps too eagerly, for my annual March treat of Thin Mints. Like many of you, no doubt, I ordered my Girl Scout Cookies from a young friend in my congregation. She made the rounds during coffee hour, a rite of spring that dates back 80 years. Buying the cookies is an excuse to indulge ourselves and ignore thinking about calorie counts because we buy into the idea that the sales program is good training for the girls and supports needed programs. And some of us, me included, buy because we remember vividly how hard it was to go out, door-to-door, and sell.

This year we’re buying in at $4 a box.

After placing my order a week ago, I got to work Monday and opened an e-mail from my younger son (for whom I ordered several boxes) with a link to a story, Hungry Haitians Resort to Eating Dirt, that tells about quite a different kind of cookie sale. It seems that global price hikes in the cost of food combined with floods and crop damage from the 2007 hurricane season have left the poorest people who live in this poor nation with literally nothing to eat but dirt—which they do in what’s called mud cookies. It gives a whole new pathos to the term “dirt poor.”

Here’s the recipe for the mud cookies: Mix dirt and water, strain out rocks. Stir in shortening and salt. Pat into rounds and leave in the sun to bake. They’re sold at the markets or in the streets, for 5 cents apiece.

Doctors worry that people who depend on the cookies for sustenance risk malnutrition and infection, from parasites or toxins.

Thin Mints for some. Mud cookies for others. It 's a stark way to see the difference between the Haves and the Have Nots. What to do? Well, I didn’t cancel my order with the Girl Scout: The cookie sales do contribute to programs that help lots of girls in our communities.

But I did check to see what our church is doing to help the situation in Haiti that has led to such dire conditions. The Lutheran World Federation is involved in community development and promoting human rights. And, of course, ELCA World Hunger provides support. So here’s my math: I bought six boxes of Girls Scout cookies, that’s $24. Doubling that is an extra donation of $48 to World Hunger. It’s a small bite out of the horrific hunger that’s the daily fare of the poor.

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