Fasting for a change.

Okay, so I admit I’ve been thinking alot about food lately.  Actually, about being hungry.  In a weird confluence of events, I’ve been studying the gospel of Luke (known by some as the gospel about the least, last, and lost) and the 14th century Italian mystic Catherine of Sienna, who fasted herself to death, at the same time that I’ve been working on a Poverty Initiative through my school internship and the world’s food shortages and economic crises have come to terrifying head.  People are hungry, all over, in every country (even ours) and have been for various reasons throughout history.  It is a universal experience.  A book I’m reading right now, called Hunger: An Unnatural History, explores what it is that makes hunger so powerful – as a tool for oppression, a political statement, evidence of our hatred for our bodies or the bodies of others, in the lives of children and political prisoners, teen girls and the poor.  Throughout the book runs the question, what does it mean to be hungry? 

Of course, as a woman in what one of my friends irreverantly (but aptly) calls “Jesus School,” in my mind hunger is deeply tied to the world of spirituality.  Whether you claim a particular faith tradition or simply claim to be a part of the human family, I think we can all agree that there is something in this world that is larger than all of us –  God, a Supreme Being, energy, physics, the human spirit – whatever we call it, something ties all of life together into community.  Every living thing relies on other living things to survive.  So it seems to me that when there are children dying of starvation on an average of every 6 seconds every day, we’ve lost our connection.  People are hungry because other people are overfull.  Two years ago, I visited Haiti on a medical mission trip and saw terrible scarcity, “grocery store” shelves with 2 cans of beans and one 5 pound bag of rice as their sole inventory, women making pies out of dirt, water, and salt in order to feed their families.  Returning home, I walked into a Target Superstore to restock my own refrigerator and stopped cold and nauseous in the first aisle, where thousands of pounds of Halloween candie waited on clearance.  The much-ness of it was overwhelming.  In Haiti, not even the basics.  In the U.S., in my home town, food after a holiday, with the wrong packaging, being readied for the garbage.  And last week, driving at a fast-food drive through with my nuggets and fries in hand, I saw a man perched with a bedroll and pack on the curb next to a dumpster.  He was meticulously, carefully eating a single bun.  Tiny bites, watching each piece disappear.  He’d obviously gleaned it from the garbage.  Not even the basics, but in my lap, a greasy feast I didn’t even finish.  That sucks, you probably are saying.  But what does it have to do with this spirituality you’re talking about?  Yeah, that’s tricky.

I am not hungry for food.  I am not what Jesus called the ptochos, the poor, someone dependent upon others for their daily support, destitute, poverty-stricken, or in extreme want.  But I am someone who has a wealth of resources available – perhaps not much money on my debit card, but a 401-k, decent food in my fridge, a roof over my head, clothes to keep me warm, a good education, family.  Rather, I’m comfortable.  So comfortable, in fact, that it’s rather easy, on a day to day basis, to forget that there are many, literally billions, of people in the world who would look at my life with awe and think that I am the most fortunate person they’d ever met.  And I would be.  But this is not a gift from God.  I did not earn this privilege.  Other people are hungry because my life is full.  The food I eat cheaply is grown by men and women who make slave-wages without health benefits.  My clothes, sown by their families.  I received a good education and will continue to find work with little effort partly because of the privilege of my race, while my minority brothers and sisters are equally qualified for the same jobs and will be passed over.  I am not hungry because others are.  The connection between us has been broken.

We all must be aware of this injustice and look for ways to redistribute wealth, whether economic or political, so that every human being has a chance at a full life.  Dare I say, this is fact?  However, I am also aware of a great mystery, and it is that while we are surrounded by evidence of an economy of scarcity, a great pie with a limited number of pieces, another economy exists, as well.  I believe in an economy of abundance.  Despite the fact that our reality teaches us that there is not enough for everyone, it is an elaborate lie.  There is enough food in the world that, were market forces regulated to protect those without economic power, we could feed every child on the planet.  Enough money to insure, provide healthcare to, house, and educate every person.  If I really believe that God is working for the good of the world, then I also am forced to believe that people who claim to follow that God can renounce our insecurity, our fear of scarcity, and be a part of that good by providing for our fellow human beings out of our abundance.  There is enough… it’s just not in the right hands yet.

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3 Comments »

  1. Chrissy Joy Said:

    Jules, I think about this all the time…. and I’m too sensitive to do anything about it. Anytime I try to figure out how to help, I feel helpless. Thanks for writing about this.

  2. honeywasp Said:

    Chrissy,
    I think I understand what you mean about being too sensitive to do anything about it. This feels overwhelming – without renouncing everything we own, reevaluating everything we consume, reshaping and transforming our lives in radical ways, what can we do? As I’ve been thinking about this, I’ve come to understand that (especially in our global economy) each of us can only address things as they come to our attention. But, because we are now a global community, even small personal choices can have an enormous impact. I get the sense that there are specific places in our individual lives that call for tranformation. We can’t fix it all… but we can bring it to the forefront of our attention and be intentional in our daily choices. I know you do this in your own life… part of what I mean by rebuilding connection is sustaining and supporting one another, too. If you help me to care and act, I’ll also do that with you. We can all do something.
    Peace,
    Jules

  3. Chrissy Joy Said:

    I would love to help you care and act. We can be like the Super Friends, I’ve always wanted to be Wonder Woman!


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