On March 10th, Time Magazine ran an article about the U.N.’s dreadful report that 20 million people around the world face scarcity and starvation. They’ve declared it the worst humanitarian crisis since 1945. I read the article (read it here) and it sickened me.
Then Monday night, as I sat in my warm, safe apartment eating a home-cooked meal, BBC America News continued their coverage of that story, showing “images which may be upsetting to some viewers”. I sobbed as I saw mothers in Nigeria holding babies who were struggling to breathe due to malnourishment and one mother’s desperate words, “I just want my child to live.” Good God! What a simple request! I put my fork down and wondered, “How can I take comfort in my abundance when 20 million people (in the U.S. and across the globe) are at risk of starvation?”
As a human who believes in the interconnection of all Creation, I feel called to do something about this crisis. As a woman who is in recovery from disordered eating, I’m well aware of my old habits and that my former eating disordered self would see this as an opportunity to restrict calories — as if eating less would somehow make me more virtuous or one with those who are starving. My healthy self can hear how ridiculous that sounds. So what CAN I do?
After prayerful consideration, here’s a brief list of actions I came up with, small though they may seem:
- Keep my heart open. By remaining open to the suffering of others, I am emotionally vulnerable. But I am also saying, “We’re connected. Your suffering is my suffering.” Of course the impact of that suffering is vastly different, but spiritually, I am connected to everyone across the globe. So, I vow to keep my heart open to the suffering of others.
- Pray. I’ve always told myself, “I can’t change the world. I can only impact those around me.” But God can change the world. God can stir us into action to overcome enormous obstacles. So, I commit myself to praying for those who are starving or food insecure and for those who are already offering them medical, financial, and physical aid.
- Eat mindfully and sustainably. Mindful or intuitive eating has been a big part of my recovery from Binge-Eating Disorder. Lately, though, I’ve begun to think of eating as an act of stewardship. No matter what’s on my plate, I can recognize it as a gift, be thankful for it, and savor it, or I can mindlessly “down it”, thereby ignoring my connection with those who grew it, harvested it, and made it. So, I commit myself to being mindful that I am eating foods that are grown sustainably and with as little impact on the earth as possible.
- Contribute locally. CityTeam Philadelphia is a homeless shelter and food pantry located in Chester, PA. I used to live two blocks from the site and often saw the long lines of people waiting for a meal or some groceries. For almost ten years, I’ve given money to the organization whenever I could. It’s a small way to connect with my neighbors in need. Just as helpful would be for me to volunteer. So, I commit myself to volunteering and giving locally.
- Contribute globally. There are many international aid organizations that offer food to the hungry and medical aid to those suffering from the complications of malnourishment. I need to do some research to determine which organizations are best to contribute to, but I commit myself to contributing globally.
This list is just a beginning. I pray for the wisdom to know how to act in more impactful ways in the future. If you have some ideas, please share them with me in the comments section.
Peace, joy, and wisdom,