S2: Episode 29 - Bertha

Episode Information

Narrator:  Welcome to Hunger and Resilience, narrative histories about the complexity and experiences of hunger. A traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper, executive director. We are grateful for the honesty and eloquence of every voice. Episode 29, Bertha.

Bertha: To me, I channel everything in my life straight from the word of God. Since I was 19, I have suffered more, I think, than anyone in my generation and suffering is there to produce new strength. It made me capable of doing what I’ve been able to do over this 70 years. My mother died while I was three, and my father married a widow. So I grew up amongst 17 children. I was farmed out, uh, to anyone who would take care of me. And then I was brought back home so that I could help care for the new babies that were coming. I never knew anyone to kiss me while I was growing up. Never knew anyone to tell me that they loved me. The only thing I would do, uh, there was an attic hole in my parents’ bedroom, and I would go and sit there and hold one of her blouses that was in a suitcase there and look up at that hole.

And I would think my mama was looking down at me since 1948. Before that, occasionally. But from 1948 on, I have fed everyone who has come Hungry. Hunger is a terrible thing. It is the most horrible thing that you can face. A child was brought to me, a pure skeleton, absolutely a skeleton, and only because there was no nourishment, no other purpose. He didn’t have any medical defect, nothing, just he had had no food. This is called His Hands Ministry. This Sunday, we were taking care of 100 families who would not necessarily have any food. And we are so grateful to the Rio Grande Valley Food Bank, which is our provider. It’s everywhere here. We could drive out today to 10 colonias, and as soon as they see our trailer, they just flock. They just come in from everywhere and all holding their hands up to the trailer and, and people standing on the trailer handing out vegetables and food and drinks. I never quit, never ever. I’m aware of suffering, and it touches me deeply. If I can meet the need, I’m fulfilled. When I can’t meet the need, I am desperate. There were days when my staff and I would be so tired that we couldn’t do anything but just laugh, and that laughter would give us release. The same with weeping. We would weep for the same reason. We were so tired and so worn out with giving that we had nothing left, but just to lay down and cry, or lay down and laugh.

[Outro Music]

Host:My assistant, Mark Menjivar and I spent two days with Bertha on the border of Texas and Mexico. Bertha drew strength from her mother, the loss of her mother, missing her at an early age. She told us that for the last 70 years, she has fed anyone that came to her house. Hungry, everyone. Bertha’s deep compassion is remarkable. Her commitment has made a difference to thousands of families. We are thankful for Bert’s powerful perspective, her history, and her consistent presence. I’m Michael Nye. You can go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for portraits and transcripts. Thank you so much for listening.