Why hunger awareness? Surely, through YouTube ads and Alyssa Milano commercials, our youth are aware of severe hunger in the world, despite our First-World ability to more than feed the whole planet. How can we not do shady math in our heads every time another country tests weapons, deploys a floating city, or transports a flying armada to political events or weekend getaways? The cost of one country's display of muscle might have ended a small country's famine for years--maybe a lifetime, were we to exercise the same fervor in ingenuity towards sustainable agriculture. So we will assume our youth have at least encountered this thinking before. The focus this weekend, then, will be hunger AWARENESS.
There is physical hunger in this world because spiritual hunger is rampant. I fear it's only growing. The first step to any change is the realization--the awareness--of what needs changing. We can't begin to address poverty out in the world until we begin addressing the poverty with us.
April is poetry month. My friend placed me on a group email that goes out every day this month. Folks on the distribution list contribute quotes and poems from both well-known and not so well-known writers. This poem, called "The Swimming Pool," by Thomas Lux cropped up the other day:
All around the apt. swimming pool
the boys stare at the girls
and the girls look everywhere but the opposite
or down or up. It is
as it was a thousand years ago: the fat
boy has it hardest, he
takes the sneers,
prefers the winter so he can wear
his heavy pants and sweater.
Today, he's here with the others.
Better they are cruel to him in his presence
than out. Of the five here now (three boys,
two girls) one is fat, three cruel,
and one, a girl, wavers to the side,
all the world tearing at her.
As yet she has no breasts
(her friend does) and were it not
for the forlorn fat boy whom she joins
in taunting, she could not bear her terror,
which is the terror
of being him. Does it make her happy
that she has no need, right now, of ingratiation,
of acting fool to salve
her loneliness? She doesn't seem
so happy. She is like
the lower middle class, that fatal group
handed crumbs so they can drop a few
down lower, to the poor, so they won't kill
the rich. All around
the apt. swimming pool
there is what's everywhere: forsakenness
and fear, a disdain for those beneath us
rather than a rage
against the ones above: the exploiters,
the oblivious and unabashedly cruel.
On the surface, this poems doesn't directly address famine, poverty, or physical hunger. Yet, I don't know that I've ever witnessed a better testament to spiritual hunger, at least as we understand it in and amid our privilege. Lux captures a moral moment at which we all find ourselves daily: "...and one, a girl, wavers to the side, all the world is tearing at her... and were it not for the forelorn fat boy whom she joins in taunting, she could not bear her terror, which is the terror of being him." Lux names that terror at the end, and he claims it's everywhere: "foresakenness and fear, a disdain for those beneath us rather than a rage against the ones above: the exploiters, the oblivious and unabashedly cruel."
Writing on the subject of fasting, all in the context of Deuteronomy 8.3, Margie Thompson compliments this poetic reminder from Thomas Lux, that we become the very thing we hate, when she writes, "Food is necessary to life, but we have made it more necessary than God. How often have we neglected to remember God's presence when we could never consider neglecting to eat? Fasting puts us face to face with how we put the material world ahead of its spiritual Source."
So pray for us Friday and Saturday, as we grow together as a group, a bit outside of the usual. Pray that rumbling bellies might become the sound of soul-shaking awakenings to our own spiritual hunger. Pray that we might discover new ways of being in this world, spiritually nourished that we may begin to truly feed the hungry.