As my husband and I fumble through this life caring for our family of 7, we have undoubtedly pushed through some difficult financial spells. Although we are in the best place we've ever been, we have hit a rough spot due to some fairly large unforseen's, and some other big expenses. The children can never tell the difference, because what's normative for them, remains. Justin and I, however, go a little hungry. This feels so pretentious even mentioning, because we don't understand true lack. We never go a full day without eating, it's more like cutting back just enough to make the groceries stretch longer, conserving for our children. It's not a gnawing pain, but an ever-present hunger. Even in our "need," our closets are bulging, our corners crammed and compact with yesterday's wants, and the underneath of beds spill with non-essentials.
I only mention these personal details because this is exactly what's compelled me to see how much of an advantage hungering has given me. As the weeks drag on and our finances balance out once again, I realize that to have a stomach that perpetually petitions for food, serves as a gentle reminder of how grateful I should feel for what I DO have, especially when all we usually have to do it pick up some of those (mostly) available hours of labor to compensate for a tough time.
When my stomach churns for sustenance, it pushes me to think of all of those around the globe that have no hope or expectation for nourishment. It gives space to think about how we spend our money and what value of food we're serving our bodies. It also creates a deep place of empathy for those who experience a violent desperation for their basic needs. I've been able to meditate on the truth that when we are a little hungry, it leaves room to seek out things that will nourish us in more lasting ways. Because denying yourself leaves space to look to something greater than ourselves for answers and for provision.
It's counter-cultural to deny ourselves in any way, isn't it?! We have come to believe that the American Dream is more of a position to attain, than an equal opportunity for all. We are a country who has the most, and yet remains the most unfulfilled. Our eagerness to consume, has led us to have the largest trade deficit AND national debt ($40,000 per second) in the world. That's 196 independent countries, and we have the largest amount of "stuff" that we still owe for. Does all of this overconsumption leave us happier? Well, we also have the highest rates of depression, and the most people reliant on pharmaceuticals in the world. I'd say not. We are the most starved, over-fed nation. We dump loads of money on our happiness, when it is simply not something up for purchase. We spent 248 million dollars on Starbucks in 2016 alone, while there are countries begging for aide for their people who are dying of ACTUAL starvation, lack of health services, and poor sanitation. At 248 million dollars a year, I’d say the American Dream is about drowning in our own pursuit of happiness. We are surely acquainted with suffering, but it's not from the deep recesses of hunger and need, but rather, being bloated on the American Dream.
I'm not claiming to be enlightened from an occasional growling stomach, but it sure has urged me to discipline my body with humility and self-denial, so that I don't become another statistic of the over-fed. I'm understanding that my comfort really has nothing to do with what actually matters and fulfills, and that the reality is, physical food only leaves me hungry for more.
I want to be counter-cultural in my efforts to be satisfied. I don't want a bigger appetite for my own desires, but one that enables me to give more deeply, to feed more selflessly, and to be more naturally inclined to deny myself for the sake of others. This is true fulfillment - to give my food to those who are hungrier than I, and feel well-fed because of it.