If you’re someone like me your closest experience to hunger has been seeing images of malnourished children on TV and social media. When we think of hunger our brain immediately visualizes starving children in Africa. However, that is not the case. Hunger exists right among us. Your next door neighbor may be experiencing it, your best friend may have struggled with it, or someone as close as a relative may have dealt with it at some point in their life. In order to fight hunger it is first important to change the face of hunger.
Do you know what your next meal will be? 1 in 6 people in America don’t. Do you know where you’re going to find food? 16 million children in America are living in households that lack the means to provide nutritious food on a regular basis. These are adults and children much like us. The only difference is that they do not know what their next meal is going to be, where it will come from, and how they are going to get it.
Hunger is an issue which you have to feel personally in order to grasp the depth and effects of it. It not only has an impact on your physical well being but also your emotional and mental stability. Food is a basic human necessity, and once that is taken away from you it leaves you distraught.
My personal experience with hunger comes from my times of fasting from sunrise to sunset during the month of Ramadan. The purpose of Ramadan in Islam is to strengthen self control and discipline. It also enables you to feel how someone who struggles to feed themselves from a day to day basis feels. Fasting opens your eyes to the world around you, it humbles you, and it provides a glance into the life of someone dealing with the issue of hunger.
My first day of fasting began with a regular healthy breakfast right before dawn. Everything seemed to be going smooth until around noon. The loud sound of thunder that I heard wasn’t coming from outside but rather from within my stomach. I looked at the clock and thus began my 8 hour countdown to sunset when I would finally be able to eat.
To make the time go faster I tried taking a nap, only to wake up in the middle to a growling stomach which felt like the shark from the movie Jaws attacking my stomach. This reminded me of the big animal with lots of teeth that Rick McNary described in his book, Hunger Bites. This was the first time I felt and agreed that hunger bites. And it bites hard.
That day helped me to put things into perspective. I felt the desperation and helplessness of a hungry person. I lacked the physical strength to accomplish tasks. I spent most of my time anticipating my next meal. It was an experience that brought me back to reality. However, I had the comfort of knowing that I would have a meal at the end of the day while there are people who don’t even have that assurance.
It is often easy to forget how privileged or blessed I am, but fasting allows me to understand the feelings of someone who lacks the resources and means to feed themselves. The uncertainty of where you’re going to find your next meal is an even more heart wrenching idea. Once we fully understand how it feels to be in a situation like that, it is only then we can begin to help fight hunger and bring change.