I have felt what I thought was hunger at times in my life. I fast once a month and I don't eat or drink for 24 hours. By the time I finish my fast I feel depleted. Often times my mood is affected and I lose my patience. I think about all the wonderful things I can eat once I am done. This is not hunger. This is being a little uncomfortable.
I remember a time that I went on a backpacking trip for scouts up in Montana. It was a 5 day trip and I had to pack in all of my food. Some of the guys with me brought freeze dried meals and they were able to bring more. I had canned food. We were told that we would catch a lot of fish. We didn't catch many. I didn't starve, but I wasn't eating what I was accustomed too. I thought about food a lot on the trip and realized how lucky I was to have parents that provided for me and gave me sustenance. The last day we hiked part of the way back to our cars and stopped to camp halfway home. All I had left to eat was some dried milk and a tin of oysters. I cooked them in my portable mess kit and I thought it was one of the best things I had ever eaten. Every time I see canned oysters to this day my mouth waters as I remember how good they were. The next morning we got back to the cars and we stopped for fast food on the way home. I thought I was starving. I wasn't. It was just a week without as much food as I was accustomed to.
The other day we went to teach a group of kids from an impoverished neighborhood about human trafficking and how they can protect themselves from it. These kids are high risk for trafficking due to the poverty that they live in. They don't have much food or many clothes. Many of them can't afford the documents they need in order to go to school. I was excited to teach them and had hope that what they learned might protect them.
As I taught them they were pretty good for a little while. About twenty minutes in we started to lose their attention and some of my family started making sandwiches in a different room and they could sense it. At that point we lost any semblance of control. It was complete chaos. It seemed like the kids were trying to break down the door to get to the food. I stopped my class short so we could feed them. They were good enough to wait for food as we brought it out to them but you could tell they were desperate.
It got me thinking about hunger and perspective. I have been here for 3 months and I spend a lot of time with people that are in poverty. I know there is hunger and poverty where I come from but it is definitely not as prevalent as it is here. I can't understand these people. Regardless of the amount of compassion I have and how hard I try to understand, I can't understand the feeling of hunger and scarcity that they feel day after day.
I can't understand it, but I feel it. It's almost something you can smell or taste. It is palpable. A constant undercurrent of panic chokes the air. Scarcity is almost a living, breathing thing in the places I visit. I can see it in their eyes and sense it in their speech. I'm not used to this feeling and even though I am blessed to have what I need it is getting to me. It is eating away at me. It causes me to question how permanent all I have is. It makes me worry about where my next meal will come from. I need to figure out a way to protect my psyche from the desperation that exists just below the surface of most of the interactions I have here and I don't know how to do it. It is hard. It makes me almost break down because of the suffering of these people. They live with it every day and I feel so bad for them, but I can't help them all. I can barely help a few and it pains me in my soul to know that.