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that’s not me.

31 Aug

I have been struggling with something lately.

I have been struggling with this blog.  Not with the ideas behind it, nor with completing anything off the list.  It’s more of an attention thing.  It makes me uncomfortable to be praised for the things that I’ve experienced in writing this blog.  I never really considered that would be a potential outcome.  Honestly, I figured most people would write me off.  I was unprepared for the heaps and heaps of positive response.

First, THANK YOU.

But second, instead of praising my efforts, consider taking on your own challenge off the 50 ways list.  If there is one thing I’ve learned in all of this, it’s that you just need a little push.  I know I did.

(Warning:  What you are about to read is going to first not relate to anything I’m talking about AT ALL and then, once you get past that, it will show you a few of the strokes of paint on my completely black canvas.)

I’m claustrophobic.  I’m literally claustrophobic, in that if you hold me too tight or stand too close or lock me in an empty ice making machine (long story)– I.  WILL.  LOSE.  IT.  I’m also mentally claustrophobic, in that as a teenager, I felt like the small town I grew up in was a cage.  So, instead of going to a state school like a lot of my friends did, I decided to move to Chicago and go to school in the city.

Moving to Chicago brought me toe-to-toe with a topic I had never really encountered before: homelessness.  Aside from a brief stint working in the projects of New Orleans, I had never really encountered homelessness.  Chicago was a much grittier world than I was accustomed to.

At first I wanted to help everyone.

“Do you have any change?”
“YES, YES, here, take all the change I’ve got.”

Next, I grew wary (and weary) and justified not caring anymore by the fact that obviously they were just going to use the money on booze or drugs.

“Do you have any change?”

“No.”

Eventually I just pretended they didn’t exist.

I pretended a human being didn’t exist.

I think I was proud of this.  Friends would come to visit and I’d say, “Oh, you’ll get used to it.  Just ignore them.”

You’ll get used to pretending a HUMAN BEING doesn’t exist.

That is the person I am capable of being.  That is the heart I am capable of having.

Last weekend I was in Boston and a man asked me if I had any change so that he could get a cup of coffee.  I said, “No, I’m so sorry, I don’t.”  I didn’t.  I wished I did.  I felt like…  you know how in those Road Runner cartoons there’s always a huge metal anvil that drops out of the sky and crushes the coyote?  Yeah– I felt like that.

I could not just ignore the fact that he existed.

I asked him his name.  “I don’t have any change but I would love to buy you a cup of coffee, James.  Where can we go for some good coffee?”

I know the person I am capable of being.  I know the heart I am capable of having.

The love that freely flows through me, the heart that has been placed inside of me– that’s not me. I know this, because I know the things that once came so so easily to me.  I know this because I know what I am capable of.  I know this because I’m constantly reminded of what He is capable of.

real hunger.

25 Jul

So I didn’t really eat for a week.  I mean, I ate a bowl of rice a day.  A bowl of bland, unseasoned, unsalted, unbuttered brown rice.  I didn’t always finish that entire bowl of rice though, even in the deepest of hungers.  It tasted like cardboard.  Sometimes it got stuck going down.  I drank water and I ate rice.  I was hungrier than I knew I could be.  I gained a little perspective.

Just a little perspective.  I starved myself within a very controlled environment and I gained a little perspective.  I had a bed to sleep in.  I drank glass after glass of filtered water to help keep my hunger at bay.  I took vitamins each morning.  I didn’t have to walk to work; I drove.  I sat in my air conditioned office where the most “manual” my labor got was a 40 minute phone call with a woman who had a lot to say.  I got a headache so I took medicine.  If I wanted food, I could have bought food.  If I couldn’t afford food, my friends wouldn’t have let me go unfed.  I gained a little perspective.

More later, probably, as it comes in.

a bowl of rice a day.

17 Jul

Number 43 on the list:  Eat only a bowl of rice a day for a week to remember those who do that for most of their life.  Remember the 30,000 people each day who die from poverty and malnutrition.

Google the words “rice” and “poverty” and you’ll get hundreds of articles containing statistics and facts about countries who “survive” (if you feel comfortable calling it that) only on rice.  Articles that write about how Asia eats and produces 90% of the world’s rice on 250 million tiny farms, that most Asians eat rice two or three times a day, that half of every harvest never even leaves the farm, but rather is used to feed the family that planted it.

Malnutrition is defined as a lack of proper nutrition or inadequate or unbalanced nutrition.  The World Health Organization (WHO) cites malnutrition as the largest threat to the world’s public health.  It accounts for just around 60% of the world’s total mortality.  One in twelve people are malnourished.  This means that even if someone never feels hunger, even if they eat all the rice in the world… they’re malnourished.  If they’re just eating rice, they’re malnourished.

They don’t have a choice.  People who have nothing to eat but rice don’t have a choice.  I am not eating anything but one bowl of rice for a whole week.  By choice.  Because I have a choice.  I live in a country that gives me a choice.  I have a job that gives me a choice.  So why would I only eat rice for an entire week if I have a choice?  It’s about gaining perspective.  You can think you understand hunger because one time you skipped lunch to finish a deadline at work or because the other day you slept an extra thirty minutes and you only had time for a cup of coffee.  You think to yourself, “I was really hungry.”  We don’t understand, we CAN’T understand what it’s like to only eat rice unless we only eat rice.  It’s just a week.  I won’t understand much of anything about starvation and malnutrition and poverty after a week.  But I’ll understand a little more than I understood without that one week.

* While Google-ing the words “rice” and “poverty” I got a response for an “informative” article entitled: “The Poverty Diet: A Comparison of the American Diet and Weight Loss Plans in Consideration of Global Food Shortages.”  The tagline read: “Need to lose a few extra pounds?  Visit a developing country and try the poverty diet.”  (I think the author was trying to sound tongue-in-cheek but ended up falling more on the side of foot-in-mouth.)