I went without food for 30 hours last weekend and while I believe that I made a difference, what was perhaps most meaningful, was just how much my own perspective was changed. I was hungry, tired and in a little bit of pain. Stomach growling, I drank more glasses of juice than I can count at the moment to try to take the edge off what I understand to be hunger.
However, I still don’t believe that I really understand hunger, never mind starvation. Doing the Famine over the past few years, I’ve come away with the perspective each year that I experienced a taste of what it’s like to go to bed hungry and to live with gnawing hunger pangs as part of my day, both of which I know are reality for many in developing countries.
What I realized this time is that my connection with food is so much deeper than purely physical and that I was never really depriving myself to the point when I could consider that I really faced hunger.
My connection with food, and our connection with food in North America, is often emotional. We have this luxury. We feel good when we eat; we have our favorites, we have choice and most of what we consume is very satisfying. Our connection with food is also social, another luxury. People gather around food, whether it is popcorn at the movies, a dinner party with close friends, a trip to Starbucks, s’mores around the campfire or dessert at a nice restaurant. In my family, one of the few times we’re all together is around the dinner table, enjoying a meal.
I never faced starvation during my “Famine.” I never experienced the pain that comes with being days without food and I’ve never had to be concerned about health problems from not having enough to eat. I’ll likely never feel the same fear for how I’m going to feed my family. Instead, I got through the 30 hours thinking about the BBQ that was going to happen at 5 p.m. on Sunday. I thought about the burgers and fruit that I very much love and I thought about the fun with friends that I would have. I was never really deprived.
What I did feel deprived of was my emotional and social connection with food, both luxuries. I think this may have bothered me even more than the hunger pangs. I couldn’t enjoy dinner with my family. I missed out on going out for lunch with friends after church. I couldn’t go to the fridge when I was bored. I didn’t get a peanut butter and jelly (my favorite!) sandwich for lunch. I almost have to laugh at how this sounds!
I am humbled and maybe even a little convicted. I take food for granted, even when I’m doing an exercise that’s supposed to help me break free from that. At the same time, I’m not only thankful for my food, but I’m also thankful for the experience with the Famine that’s helped me to realize and own this perspective.