The Hope of Sustenance

I would liked to have posted earlier today (and by today I mean Wed. – although it’s after midnight on Thu. morning, I consider it still…yesterday…until I’ve gone to bed), but I had a number of pressing school projects. The most urgent of these taken care of, I now have a little time to develop the notes I jotted for myself earlier in the day.

Today was my third day of a water-only fast (with the minor exception of two Tic-Tac breath mints yesterday and today, at the gentle suggestion of my mother <smile>). While I’ve heard that after a while you actually end up having a fresh burst of energy and feeling alive and full of vitality, today wasn’t that. :) In fact, I even considered taking the elevator in the library, where I always take the stairs…my legs felt tired and I just preferred to save my energy.

A part of me would like to press on through tomorrow, which I think I could do, but I have a test in the morning, and I think it would be wise to go back on some sort of rations for brain power. I still intend to keep it to one or two meals though, and skip the fast food and other treats on campus or at home through next Monday at least.

One of the things I was pondering today was the hope of sustenance and how food is a motivator in so many ways. A parent or teacher might give a cookie or a piece of candy for success in school or potty training or learning to read. Banks have jumped on the coffee bandwagon and started offering free java to their customers. Grocery stores hand out samples to serve as an incentive for trying a new product.

It’s not just here in the U.S. that that is the case, however. Even our government recognizes that giving food aid is actually a means of promoting foreign security. School feeding programs are in part an incentive for children to get an education (and for their parents to let them – it’s one less meal to find). And the lack of food can be a motivator too – something that causes food-related riots, makes someone work harder at his or her job, sadly, perhaps even sell himself or herself to get fed.

The demotivation connected with a lack of food was on my mind today too. It’s a little harder to study when you haven’t had food for a couple days – and that happens even for fellow college students here in the States that might have run out of funds by the end of the month and are considered “food insecure.” In my case, food has been fairly frequently on my mind recently (but I realize, as I noted yesterday, that I think about food a lot anyway). But even if you somehow put food out of your mind and your stomach isn’t constantly growling to remind you of your lack, the effects on concentration and productivity are still there – and far more so for those who’ve had less than enough food for months.

Because of this, getting people fed is crucial to them being able to take self-supporting steps to develop businesses and enhance the quality of life in their communities. We can’t expect people to work with passion and persistence and brilliance when they’re starving and have no strength, although I know many still do. All of these efforts have trickle-down effects…the mother who is sufficiently well-nourished is more likely to give birth to healthy babies, and in turn they can grow up and become leaders in their countries. The person who has enough to buy more than just mac’n’cheese and Ramen noodles is likely to live a longer and healthier life.

But those of us who have enough food need a different sort of empowerment, an awakening if you will. It’s in part because of that that I’ve undertaken this fast. I have to ask myself “what are my motivations for the things I do in life? What am I filling the emptiness of my new-found time with? “What are the other priorities I make as soon as I know I have food covered? “What would those be for others in third world countries?” I’ll be the first to say that I think it’s good and important for people to enjoy good-tasting food, without guilt, when it fits in their budget. But even just a few days of not going to fast food places drives home the point again that these costs add up – and do I really want to be consistently spending money on something so fleeting, above and beyond what I need to survive?

Some organizations encourage us to give up a Coke or a cup of coffee each day and donate the funds to sponsor a child or help fund some other important cause. And while I think that’s a great idea, it’s never really worked well for me…I tend to figure I’ll just give the money and still have my little luxuries. It’s very easy to spend $3 here on a coffee and $5 there on a sub, and not think about how in a month that ends up being worth quite a few dollars. I’ll certainly be saving money if I have less fast food…and I think it’s a good idea to have a plan for those pinched pennies, whether it’s saving them for a rainy day or sharing them with someone else in need. I think the key might be in specificity…choosing something in particular to be benefited by whatever you’re abstaining from.

I’m grateful I didn’t grow up in a home where my parents said “finish what’s on your plate – there are starving kids in Africa.” Because I don’t think that’s the proper correlation to make. Yes, there are starving kids…but eating more or less of what’s on one’s plate doesn’t change that. However, some of the motives behind that admonition, including a desire to not waste, are excellent. The amount of food thrown out by restaurants and grocery stores and others is appalling! And they say that there’s enough food in the world for everyone to have 4 lbs a day.

One thing I’ve thought of too, is how lack drives demand. It would be very easy for me to be tempted to gorge myself on every possible tasty thing I could get my hands on when I break this fast…whether to “make up” for my time off those things, or perhaps even the slightly more noble endeavor of savoring my food more than I did before. Or I could almost as easily forget the whole thing in just a few short days or weeks…comfortable once again with the status quo and my common routine. But I hope I don’t. I hope I remember hunger…the little piece of hunger I’ve tasted (no pun intended – these eating phrases are just everywhere)…and keep it near enough the front of my mind to encourage extra thinking and pondering and doing.

Finally, today’s fasting has made me even more curious and desirous of playing a role in my local community when it comes to hunger initiatives. While Numana does a great job of encouraging food drives for local food banks at our events, and we’re in the process of developing some other neat local initiatives like community gardens, again, I haven’t personally taken/had the opportunity to volunteer at the Kansas Food Bank or help dish out meals at the homeless shelter. I do have the privilege of working with several food-related businesses as a business consultant, and I’m particularly excited about the positive health and economic benefits of food raised by local growers. Even though the need is so great in other countries, I think we’ll find even more willing volunteers and supporters when they see us “taking care of our own.”

Thanks for reading – as always, your comments are welcomed. I’d love to hear your ideas for impacting hunger locally and internationally, and keeping these topics fresh on our minds without getting overwhelmed or putting guilt trips on ourselves. Cheers!

Read the rest of the posts in this series:


This entry was posted on Thursday, March 31st, 2011 at 2:18 am and is filed under Important Causes. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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