The truth is this:
65 percent of the world’s hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia. –World Food Program
Today is Day 1 of Willow Creek’s 5 Day Rice and Beans Challenge for the Celebration of Hope 2011. Today I realized how much of our culture is focused on food. I see handfuls of restaurants on every street corner, advertisements and billboards for food on each block, smells of chorizo from the family living above my workplace. The more I try to forget, to be satisfied with a meager meal, the more I’m inundated with thoughts of food from my surroundings. It’s the pink elephant in the room.
And today, there was something so profoundly wrong about the picture of my lunch break. I sat in Starbucks, my usual go-to place, and I stared at my Mexican rice, refried beans, and black beans. Guilt overwhelmed me. As I sat editing my last blog entry on my wireless laptop, staring at my Gladware container half full of food, I felt so much shame for what I was doing, for what I was eating. The luxury of sitting in a plush chair, cups of water before me, wireless internet access for free, a laptop gracing my knees…and I’m trying to experience the plight of the poor.
Even worse, after taking a bite, I realized how enjoyable the food was. Sure, the portion size was much smaller than I’d like, but just two weeks ago, before I was aware of the 5 Day Challenge, I had actually considered committing to eating Mexican rice and refried beans for lunch anyway as a somewhat healthy lunch alternative to sandwiches. As I packed my lunch last night, I swapped out 1/2 a cup of refried beans for 1/2 a cup of black beans because it made me feel just *this* much better that I was actually eating the black beans we had been given. So with each bite of my delicious food, the taste of disgust filled my mouth–disgust at myself.
I couldn’t even give up the comfort that I’ve grown to love for even just a few meals. The taste, the joy of eating–the recreation of enjoying a good meal. I’m not a hardcore foodie, going to fancy restaurants and white table cloth dining, but that’s not for lack of want. I watch Food Network, I love watching the tension build on Iron Chef, the stress of Chopped, the delight in Paula Deen’s face from sticks of butter. I probably even have an unhealthy relationship with food (emotional eater?), something I’m working to change.
And so those tomatoes, those spices, that chicken stock, those refried beans…what a luxury! What a comfort! Something familiar to hold on to, to cling to, to make *my* life easier as I *try* to understand what the bottom billion go through each day. Hah! How far off I am. If I’m honest, I’m afraid. Of what, I’m not quite sure yet. But I remember the pasty beans from the Broken Bread meal, and I am none too eager to repeat it. Maybe I’m afraid of how great the discrepancy is between my life and theirs. Maybe I’m afraid of how hard it will be to do my physical job. But maybe, maybe I’m really just afraid of what God will ask me to do, to give up, after the next 4 days are over.
One of my friends has been struggling as she works for a job that pays less than minimum wage where she comes face to face with the brokenness in our city on a daily basis. Should God call her to go and live among the rural communities in Africa, she would gladly go. But ask her to be poor in America, where our friends and family are not just making it, but are in fact wealthy…it is so hard to do. Giving up comfort and security when the option is right there staring at us in the face is hard to do.
And I can’t even do it for a meal? I had no idea that I was this selfish. Maybe I’m afraid of who God will reveal me to be as each of these next 4 days pass. Already, I don’t like the picture I see.
I tried to put off eating dinner until late at night, so I wouldn’t have to go to bed hungry. I finished my half cup of rice and half cup of beans, and I’m actually hungrier now than before I started dinner. Even still…though I eat 2 cups a day…tonight I will take a hot shower with clean water and sleep in my climate controlled room with a bed of my own.
How do we even begin to comprehend what our billion brothers and sisters go through?
Tomorrow begins the white rice and black beans.