Forgive me. This is a very unpatriotic post. In fact, it may be my most dismal post ever.
This morning I learned that 2/3 of U.S. citizens are obese or overweight, and the numbers are steadily increasing. Meanwhile, within the past month it was announced that the amount of people who suffer from extreme malnutrition or starvation throughout the world has surpassed 1 billion.
I can’t imagine what 1 billion people would look like. I definitely can’t imagine what it would be like to be malnourished or starving. Sadly, I do relate to my fellow Americans in the experience of being overweight.
One of the most heart breaking stories I ever heard about hunger was how the people of Haiti make and eat cakes made of mud in order to sooth their hunger pains. It is so common, evidently, that people sell their mud cakes to each other in the market.
It is embarrassing to be an American. Because I am an American I am so privileged that I struggle about what is more ethical: Should I spend a lot of money on local and organic foods or spend less money on cheaper foods and choose solidarity with my poor brothers and sisters? Because I am an American I see food wasted nearly every day and live in the midst of abundance, while others suffer to the point of death because they have so little. In the United States we even teach our children to use a potato or apple as a paint stamp and make crafts out of rice and beans. I remember doing these immoral things as a child.
Obviously world hunger problems are extremely complicated. Our trade systems are totally unjust. The agriculture laws don’t make much sense in promoting the basic purpose of crops: to feed people. I wonder how much quality crop land is used to grow fuel, cloth, sod, tobacco or animal feed. (This is why I was a vegetarian for a few years.) There are infrastructure problems, global warming, land fights, war, and violence. The issue of hunger is connected to nearly every other injustice that exists in today’s world.
And then there’s Jesus, the Bread of Life. He taught us how to have an open, Eucharistic table of inclusive Love and Life. He taught us how to have faith in the multiplication of loaves when we’re generous and responding to the needs of others. How many of His stories were about a banquet, a table, or food? Wasn’t it in the breaking of the bread that his friends recognized Him?
Christians, I don’t know what to do. It makes me all feel so helpless and overwhelmed. I do know, however, that there are many organizations that I can support and activities I can partake in to increase awareness. ( Free Rice Game , Heifer Project International , Feed My Starving Children , The Hunger Site , World Food Programme , Bread for the World.) And, I can pray. I know I must pray more.
Jesus, Bread of Life, As I eat, help me behave justly. As I give, help me love tenderly, As I speak, help me listen lovingly. Holy Eucharist, give food to all who are malnourished and starving. Please give a hunger for justice for all who have plenty to eat. Amen.
Originally from Northeast Iowa, Sister Julia is a novice with the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Her love for God and God’s good world is manifested in her attempts to be an educator, a youth empower-er, an earth lover, and a peacemaker. She works at an inner-city Catholic high school in Chicago.