Not to get too serious during the holidays, but I’ve spent some time thinking lately about Hunger as a concept, rather than just an uncomfortable feeling we have before dinner. Here are some of my thoughts and observations and how I came to them.
I’ve been helping a family member get through some health issues, and the last few weeks have been challenging. To show some solidarity, I decided to fast alongside this person while waiting for surgery. I went from 8:00PM to 4:00PM the following day without food, and I quickly learned that the stomach has no memory: I ate a big dinner that night and a snack before bed, but my tummy was already rumbling shortly after I woke up in the morning.
Ok. So I wasn’t exactly starving during the fast, but the combination of exhaustion and hunger got me thinking. Why is it that we must take life to sustain it? I’m neither a vegan nor a monk. I eat when I’m hungry, and I try to eat as moderately and nutritiously as possible. But I do indulge, and I am known for having a hearty appetite. Going hungry made me question how fair it is to freely eat while others may not.
In A Christmas Carol, Dickens includes two ghosts not seen in every adaptation: Ignorance and Want. They take the forms of two needy children and are presented to Scrooge by the Ghost of Christmas Present. The ghost quotes Scrooge’s scoffing of charity, and how hunger can “reduce the excess population.” Most of us are familiar with Scrooge’s initial attitude toward those in need, and how he changes after having an epiphany. Many of us try to help meet the needs of the less fortunate, and that’s commendable. But are we fully aware of the Want that surrounds us?
While I was waiting for my family member to come out of surgery, a young woman entered the room. She was having a loud conversation on her cellphone that would make Jerry Springer blush. Evidently she was recently released from prison and was arguing with a man about the custody of their child. From the sound of it, things weren’t going too smoothly.
I initially thought this conversation was rehearsed, found it kind of funny, and looked around the hospital for a Candid Camera crew to come tell me it was a joke. Unfortunately, it was real. I then started to feel bad. How sad must the parents be–in general, throughout their lives–to have reached the point of having this argument? Regardless of how you may feel about them–and the problems they may or may not have caused themselves–imagine the Ignorance and Want their child will likely suffer in life?
Pleas for charity have flooded our TVs the last few weeks, and it’s easy to become desensitized after seeing countless images of people suffering who live far away. Call it Hunger, call it Want, but the acute lack of something essential–food, opportunity, love–is ever present and right in front of us.
So this holiday season, I ask that you are thoughtful of your consumption, its effects on those around you, and to consider those who may not enjoy a fine meal, a warm home, or a reunion of family. Please do not take for granted what others are painfully aware they lack.
Lastly, here are two Connecticut charities I try to support as often as I can. I know they work hard to fight Hunger, Ignorance, and Want. They do a lot of good for the families in the community. Please also consider supporting them or the great charities in your area not only now but throughout the year. Thanks.