Note: Part of my series on Feeding with Love
Have you ever been hungry, so famished that you feel like you could eat anything, and the hunger takes on a life of its own, clawing at your stomach, such a constant demand that you can’t completely focus on anything else? And if you have felt that, have you been in the position of not being able to feed that hunger, but must somehow live with it, until it becomes a hollow ache, no longer pain but a chronic emptiness?
I think about this sometimes these days when the bus takes me past the soup kitchen on the way home, and I see the long lines of people gathered in the cool darkness of late afternoon. How many of them would have access to a meal if not for the soup kitchen? How long has it been since their last meal?
Some members of my church volunteer there once a month because they consider it one of the most important forms of ministry. Although I’ve only joined them a few times, I have to agree. Many of us know the joy of giving, especially in the holiday season, and what could be more rewarding than giving someone one of the very necessities of life? And even more, to do so in a loving way, to recognize and respect the humanity of each person and act accordingly as you serve them food.
That can be hard for those who are used to feeling superior to people who get their meals in such places, thinking they’re lazy or taking advantage of those with soft hearts. In truth, though, more and more people are turning to those services, people who have been hit hard by the economic downturn and have no other options.
For some people, too, the concept of hunger is abstract, not a reality, making it difficult to empathize. In a society of such abundance, it’s possible to eat so much that you no longer recognize hunger in yourself, and the only thought you might give to it is when someone says that you should “clean your plate because there are starving children in Africa” (or other country of choice).
But I do know what it’s like to be hungry, not because I can’t afford food but because I no longer overeat. Comparing that to those who face hunger by force, I am both humbled and grateful that most of the time I don’t waste food any longer by eating what I don’t need. (Note that I am not advocating deliberately starving yourself, just following your body's natural hunger and fullness rhythms.)
This makes me think about my food choices in a more critical way. When I go grocery shopping, instead of buying so much that rather than waste excess food I’m tempted to “clean my plate” (which to my knowledge has never particularly helped anyone, starving or otherwise), I question what I”m buying. Could I make a less expensive choice? Do I truly need so much?
I may not save a lot of money doing this, but what I do save I’ve recently decided to set aside to help feed those who don’t always know when they’ll get a meal. And in doing so, I can feed both my own hunger and that of others with thoughtfulness and love.