On Friday, I returned to being a normal, over-indulgent American. Our second month of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess is finally complete.
Not sure what I'm talking about? Check out the post that started it all.
I drank my coffee with sugar and milk (and rejoiced!).
I ate sweets. Lots and lots of sweets. Also, lots and lots of processed foods.
And pizza. Oh, sweet nectar of life. I missed pizza.
You see, we went the last month only eating seven foods. And if that sounds crazy, it is.
Here's what I've been eating: brown rice, black beans, spinach, pears, fish, peanut butter, and coffee.
And here's what my wife was eating: brown rice, black beans, spinach, apples, bananas, almonds, and oatmeal.
Needless to say, we won't touch these foods with a ten-foot pole for the next week.
As with our first month, when we simplified stress in our lives, I've learned a lot from my experience. Simplifying food was not easy.
First of all, it became painfully obvious to us that we mostly live to cook/eat and not eat to live. Now, I could be wrong when I say this (I haven't actually researched it enough to know), but I suspect that humans are the only race that does this. And thus, we're the only race that suffers as a result of what we eat.
It's mind-boggling, really, how much money we spend on a monthly basis for food that ends up in the toilet. In effect, you might as well take the $150 per person (or more - that's the low end) that you spend on food and toss it down the drain, because that's what we're doing. And if that seems absurd to you, realize that we are doing exactly that by dedicating so much of our time and resources to something that ultimately ends up in the sewer.
I suspect that when I see this very problem in me, it's a sign of sickness. I was never meant to spend my life living to eat. For crying out loud, we have entire networks of television and schools of higher education dedicated to what we flush down the drain every day! As I progressed through the last month, I really wrestled with the fact that I was angry that I could only have my coffee black or that I always had smoothies for lunch and rice, beans, and fish for dinner.
Personally, I'm ashamed that I ever felt that way. To be so ungrateful for what we're blessed with is an attitude opposed to my very way of life. There's nothing fulfilling or satisfying about a negative, angry, ungrateful stance toward what we've been given.
More importantly, I learned about how ridiculous it is that so many people are hungry in the world. Here's an infographic from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to whet your taste:
If that doesn't make you angry, confuse you, or sadden you, then you need to do some serious soul-searching. It's bone-chilling to think that nearly a billion people around the world were considered "hungry" in 2010. And that was only two years ago - the problem hasn't become any better since then.
Just think about this for a moment: if the hungry were a nation, that nation would be three times the size of the United States. It would be a need too great to ignore.
Instead, though, the hungry are everywhere. They're so dispersed that it seems like a minor blip on the radar of world issues at hand. However, there's no denying that this is a major problem. Essentially, one in six people in the world does not have access to a sufficient amount of food.
This especially weighed on my heart through my food month of the 7 challenge. Rice and beans were the staples of most of our meals, and we became sick of them quickly. Now we can have fun and joke about eating the same thing for a month straight and how sickening it sounds, but can you imagine not even having the ability to eat for a month straight?
The worst part about all of this? Rice and beans are cheap. Dirt, dirt, dirt cheap. Even in the United States, where the cost of living is exponentially higher than in other undeveloped countries, these essential food items are basically free (especially when compared to our more preferred foods - beef or chicken, amongst other things).
Since these foods are cheap, this means that there is an abundance of them and that they're cheap to grow as well. To me, that raises a red flag. You're telling me that I can pay a few dollars for a bag of beans and decently sized bag of rice, but nearly a billion people around the world are starving to death? I don't know if you've noticed, but something doesn't add up here.
Last week, I wrote about my recently completed senior paper on social justice, and how I learned about the importance of caring for the fatherless. However, something that was even more prominent in my studies was the concern we are supposed to have for those who are poor.
God expresses that his will is that there should be no one who is poor in this world. And while it seems like a contradiction, God understands that we, as people, suck. And because we suck, there are going to be poor among us; in fact, Jesus says they will always be with us. So what do we do?
I suspect you know the answer already, but it's simple. God lays it out in four easy steps for us.
Steps 1: Don't be a jerk. Don't harden your heart.
Don't know what it means to have a "hard" heart or a "closed" hand? It's simple, really. If you can look at the infographic I referred to earlier and not be affected, your heart is hard.
Step 2: Keep not being a jerk. Don't close your hand.
Now maybe you were affected by that infographic and it burdens you to think about the poor among us in the world. So your heart isn't necessarily hard. But is your hand "closed?" There's an easy way to see this.
If, when you're affected by statistics like that or pictures or descriptions of the poor in the world, you hurt for those people, you have a healthy heart. However, if your first thought after, "That sucks," is, "Well, I can't help them out - I don't have enough money," then you're closing your hand.
While it may be true that you yourself are poor and can hardly afford to give to those who have not, God honors those who give out of their poverty.
Step 3: Admit you were wrong. Open your hand.
This one is simple. Acknowledge that you might actually have a lot more money than others in this world. And while I don't know every single person that reads Life Before the Bucket, I suspect that the majority of this demographic is much, much richer than many others in the world. We're richer than we know. Admitting that we're part of the problem is the first step to a solution.
Step 4: Give.
How hard is this, really? The instructions are the simplest out of any of the steps. Why do we make it so painful?
Now, don't get me wrong. Eradicating poverty isn't simple. There are dozens of organizations who are feeding those without food who will quickly tell you that the solution isn't as simple as a redistribution of wealth. However, if we never give, how could we ever expect the poor to receive the help they so desperately need?
And while you may be wary of giving to charities, there are ways to ensure that you're giving toward a worthwhile cause. Charity Navigator is one organization who helps charities to remain transparent in their finances. This allows us, who give to them, to see where our money is being spent. I highly suggest taking a look at CN's website and finding a charity that meets your expectations.
And so here we are, left with a choice. Harden your heart and close your hand, or soften your heart and give generously. It seems our excuses are exhausted, while the need is ever-growing. Will you, then, consider dedicating yourself to this cause? Help feed those who can't afford a bag of beans and a bag of rice to feed their children. Help those who are so poor that they live on less than $1 a day.
Join us in getting over ourselves and helping others today. Don't be part of the reason why a billion people are going hungry today.
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Questions: Were you aware of how many people in the world are going hungry? What has your attitude in the past been toward these people? How will that change now that you're more aware? What charities do you support that are part of the solution to this need?
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