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charity, community, New York City

Inspired: What I learned about hunger in New York City from Total cereal and a baby stroller

“Do you think you could help us get a few things to eat at that grocery store until our food stamps for the month come in?” An elderly man pushing a baby in a stroller whispered this question to me two blocks from my apartment. After so many years in New York, I’ve grown used to people asking for help on the streets. So used to it that I can now *almost* get out a “sorry” with a smile and be on my way without feeling nauseous. Almost.

But this man was different. I’m not sure if it was his phrasing, tone of voice, simple request, or the baby carriage that did it. I just couldn’t walk away from him without helping. I was carrying two boxes of Total cereal that I had just bought and I handed one to him. “Does this help?” I asked. “It sure does,” he said with a smile. His cracked gold tooth gleamed in the late morning sun.

He’s haunting me now, even though I did help him. A box of cereal wasn’t enough. I know that. What he really needs is a job, a source of income that eliminates his need to beg at all, gets him off of food stamps, and helps him contribute whatever talents he has to the world. That’s a dignity we all deserve. I don’t have that job for him so all I could do in that moment was hand him a box of cereal. It feels woefully inadequate to look into another person’s eyes, see their need, and realize we can’t meet it. It leaves a hole, a crack in my well-crafted New York City armor, and perhaps that is the crack where the light will enter. Thanks, Leonard Cohen. I’m beginning to hear your Anthem.

About Christa Avampato

I make a living in business and I make a life as a writer, artist, and yogi. I use my business and storytelling skills to build a better world. My first novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, will be published in the Fall of 2017 by Thumbkin Prints, a children's and YA imprint of Possibilities Publishing Co. My creative career has stretched across Capitol Hill, Broadway theatre, education, nonprofit fundraising, health and wellness, and Fortune 500 companies in retail, media, and financial services. In every experience, I have used my sense of and respect for elegant design to develop meaningful products, services, program, and events to help people live happier, healthier lives. A recovering multi-tasker, I am a proud alum of UPenn (BA) and the Darden School at UVA (MBA). When not in front of my Mac, I’m on my yoga mat, walking my rescue dog, Phineas, traveling with a purpose, or practicing the high-art of people watching. I am proud to New York City my home, and I've been called the happiest New Yorker by friends and strangers alike. They're right. Follow my adventures on Twitter at and Instagram at


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