5 Day Challenge – a retrospective
This past week I participated in the “Poverty Fast” with my church family in Illinois. While I could not commit to the “no caffeine” rule without getting a headache at work, I pretty much followed the rest of the guidelines. Everyday food intake was restricted to one cup oatmeal for breakfast and a one cup portion of rice and beans for lunch and dinner, and unchilled tap water. There were still many choices: white rice, brown rice, wild rice,… pinto beans, black-eyed peas, etc. which made the challenge a bit sterile. The point of the discipline is to provide practical insight into how the bottom (3+) billion live everyday. After 5 “hard” days, I can honestly say I still feel I have no idea! But here are some of my thoughts and feelings at the end of the challenge.
I got to end my fast with a french dipped roast beef sandwich at Phillippe’s and snacks at a Dodger game, I could not stop thinking about the reality that there are still over 3 billion people who cannot end their “fast” and they will still be hungry tonight and tomorrow and….
During the week, I chose to say “No” to food, but everywhere I looked there were people eating, there were advertisements, there were restaurants and vendors. I was “alone” in my attempt, yet I know that in most places poverty is not singular. It affects families, villages, cultures, and countries as a whole. And though I am now more aware of how “the other half” lives, I am no less overwhelmed as to how to even begin to make a difference, other than to pay attention as to how I eat and how much money I spend on my own eating.
I know that our own culture bombards us with food channels, cookbooks, “convenience and fast” foods, all at the same time “they” are telling us how obese we have become. It is almost as though we worship food; I know that what we really worship is ourselves and one of the ways we do that is by spending “our” money on our own “needs” and happiness, which includes many excesses such as food and “stuff”. Also, I am not sure that the experience helped change my disposition; all our wealth and choices does not seem to make us any happier. We are still the whiniest people ever! And another thing, as I ate my simple meals I had very little preparation. There is no concept of how food is grown, how much time it takes to process and prepare it from start to finish. As others spend the majority of their day gathering and doing whatever it takes to survive, I can run to the store and spend more than the daily wage of those in poverty to get something all ready to pop in the microwave. And I don’t have to haul dirty water from miles away either. I suppose that to really change my perspective I would have to live in “another woman’s hut” (aka walk a mile in another’s shoes) for much longer than five days.
There are so many reasons why poverty exists and why it continues to be perpetuated. But I cannot change to fact that as one of the few who was privileged to be born into the wealthiest country on earth, wealth is a responsibility and not just a blessing. Nevertheless, the experience has made me much more conscious and sensitive to a dire global situation. For God’s kingdom to come on earth, it takes those of us in the Kingdom to live like the King every moment of every day, learning to see with His eyes and care with his heart. For a bare minimum start, it means learning to live with less so that others can have more.
To quote my friend Michael Benzing, who is already seated at the banquet table in God’s house,” How can you eat like no one else is hungry?!”
PS – The plan is shown in the comment section!