On Hunger & Poverty

So I’ve never understood hunger until I was hungry enough to feel agitated at the fact that in order for someone else to eat enough, I needed to eat less.

It struck me some 10 years ago when I made my first visit to a third world country that while I’m bothered by seeing gaunt children who do not have enough to eat–I’m not bothered enough, quite enough to permanently eat less.  I could not knowingly choose to  to habitually feel that gnawing in the gut that makes one argumentative and testy in exchange for giving someone else the chance to fight malnutrition.

Almond cookies

Almond cookies (Photo credit: ginparis2002)

Sure, I gave away some of my cookies on that trip, to children who had apparently not eaten in a while.  But I was not happy about it.  Truly, I was just wishing all that poverty would go away and not by my giving away the last “biscuit” in my ONLY pack of cookies.

It hit me so strangely back then, that the only way to alleviate poverty is to alleviate excess.  I knew that in order for everyone to be happy that day, I had to share my 10 cookies among 10 people instead of eating the whole pack myself.  Bummer.

So there’s all kinds of spiritual questions that come to mind, every time I have to choose between sharing or hiding my pack of cookies to eat later in private so no one will know I only give when it doesn’t hurt to do so (aka: I’ll share licorice any day).  When is enough enough?  Is it right for us to buy bigger houses than we actually need when we could take part of the extra that would go toward a bigger mortgage payment and instead share it with those who actually don’t even have a place to live?

I thought I understood giving.  I don’t.  Am I not entitled to live a happy, fulfilled life wherein I’m free to purchase anything I want because I “earned” it?  There is this constant battle between the me that wants to help others and the me that wants to help myself.  I realize that in order to give, I need to have-so I need to try.  But I am not the means to an end.  What can I give away today that would have otherwise made ME very happy to consume?

We always talk about poverty in big spiritual or political agenda ways.  Like, “Let’s construct a well in village nowhere.  Here’s the budget.  Wow.  It costs that much to dig a well? And maybe eat cookies while you’re doing so.”  I am not knocking that.  That is awesome.  But sometimes those projects just seem like easy breezy.  If it ever came down to one of those projects requiring that we go hungry for a few years in order to see it come to fruition, how many of us would stick to it?

I hate it that people are hungry.  But I also hate it that I don’t yet have everything I want.
I read some investigation reports tonight of some “may or may not have” mis-used government funds (millions) allegations.  And I’m thinking, yes.  I’d like to have had at least a tenth of that portion, so that I can give it all away to my poor african third world family and save their lives forever and good.  But, I don’t even want to give up the last piece of cake tonight at the dinner table to those who are hungrier than me, right around me.

There is a poverty of spirit that results from an unwillingness to go physically hungry for the sake of someone else’s well-being.

But hunger and greed look a lot alike.  Greed gets all agitated at the inconvenience of less. It gets all worked up in the face of hunger like it might require more.

Greed is insatiable. Hunger is not.

I just remembered tonight that I’m blessed and God hasn’t called me to eat more.  He’s called me to make sure everyone I know, everyone within my sphere of influence has enough to eat.

That stinks.  I used to think of it (feeding the poor) as a “noble high calling.”  But when it comes down to a budget line item…me not having more so that they can have enough…kind of a thing….it’s sorely inconvenient and I’m not sure what I believe.  God cares for the sparrow.  Maybe I should let Him care for the poor too.

My stomach is growling.
My spirit is growling louder.

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4 thoughts on “On Hunger & Poverty

  1. Nice piece. I’ll share licorice any day too. 🙂

    My son and I have had this conversation. We said that if every person in the world (or financially able persons) each gave $1.00 towards feeding the hungry, it would end world hunger. I don’t know how valid that statement is or could be but I’m certain that most of us who have a $1.00 to give would gladly give it (and even more) if we knew it was going to the mouths who needed it.

    I can only imagine how that must feel to be in the presence of those who are hungry and poor. I’m sure it is a humbling experience.

    • Thank you Karen, for visiting. “Poverty” from a distance looks much different than it does up close. Yes, I’m sure that if EVERYONE was willing to give something, it could amount to a lot. The problem is that some are not willing to give anything, so that leaves a greater burden for those who do try to make a difference. Sometimes I’m willing to help. Other times I’m not.

  2. This is so much exactly the right dilemma for us to be in. I appreciate you jumping in and sharing your struggles. Most of us are still not willing to admit it all. Let’s persevere, and get better at it all day by day.

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