Nourishment for a hungry nation

Published 8:40 am Friday, January 23, 2009

You’ve no doubt heard the stories of cold temperatures, blocked cell phones and lost loved ones at Tuesday’s inauguration.

Many chose to stay home so they wouldn’t be subject to the chaos. Some wondered why anyone would be crazy enough to go in the first place, knowing they would not get anywhere near the Obamas.

“Why would all those people go out there?” they asked. I had the same question.

When I was asked to cover a person who was headed to the inauguration this week, I was conflicted for many reasons.

The major one is the fact that because of my personal beliefs, I choose to remain neutral in political affairs. Although it’s a quality I believe is extremely useful when reporting the news (my neutrality allows me the opportunity to evaluate all sides of an issue fairly with no bias), on a day like Tuesday, that was difficult to do.

Not difficult for the reasons you might assume. I’m nowhere near caught up in “Obama Mania.”

The hard part for me was my inability to shake away the emotions of the people around me.

I was surprised by my own reaction as I was overwhelmed with feelings of empathy for those surrounding me. They were Americans from every walk of life, all different ethnic backgrounds and personal life experience, huddled together in a famished state.

Each person was hungry for something different than what their daily lives currently offer, hungry for a change in their overall circumstances, and hungry to see the circumstances of their country improve.

As they watched President Obama, I watched them.

I looked around to see nearly 2 million people who were willing to stand in a cold, sleep-deprived state, in many cases without food, for hours on end just to hear words from a man who could perhaps reassure them that things would be “OK.”

They had made a pilgrimage in search of a meal whose main ingredient was hope.

As they dined on President Obama words, I could feel relief sweep over the crowd like the loosening of a belt after a big meal.

For them, his words were as comforting as a big bowl of Grandma’s chicken soup.

The words they heard fed their sense of urgency to be released from their current daily struggles.

Critics may say President Obama’s supporters act as if he is the “Second Coming.” “Those folks will soon be disappointed when realization that he’s only human sinks in,” they say.

I overheard conversations of many in attendance saying they don’t expect President Obama to fix their current circumstances.

For them, Obama has simply been the inspiration that has helped them find the power to change their own lives.

A man from New York said: “He has given us a call to service. It’s up to us to answer the call; only then will this country progress. He can’t do it.”

After watching the faces and listening to the stories of the ones who braved such treacherous conditions, I now think I know why many felt compelled to be a part that day: They are people hungry for hope. President Obama fed them and offered inspiration for dessert.

kathi pines is a staff writer for The Tidewater News. Her e-mail address is