I have had many privileges given to me in my short life. One of those gifts was being able to travel for extended periods to places such as India, Central and South America. During my time living in those places, I immersed myself in the culture and did not spend much time in the tourist destinations or hotels. These were incredible learning experiences and allowed me to see and feel the cultures from the street.
One prominent feature of each place I lived was the poverty that plagued so many, many families. For countless number of people, the days began and ended in hunger. It was heartbreaking for me as I was raised in a privileged country and extreme poverty was not something I grew up with. People living with hunger as a constant companion, was not in my inventory of life experience and beyond my grasp of understanding except in one aspect.
Throughout my adult life I practiced fasting, which as most know is making the decision not to eat for various reasons. The longest fast (only liquids) I completed was 26 days. During this and other times, I did experience hunger and understood the physical, emotional, and mental consequences of being deprived of food. But my experience was limited because I knew with certainty I could choose to break my fast at any time and end the sensation of hunger. It would be an incredibly painful and debilitating state of body and mind to live with hunger, day in and day out with no hope of its conclusion or future resolution.
The millions/billions of people that live in poverty do not have the resources to end their hunger as I did. I cannot really grasp what it is like to not know if, when or where my next meal will appear. I have not seen successive generations of my family or my children grow up in the devastating grip of malnutrition. It would be an unimaginable nightmare for me and I believe, most of everyone I know.
I now live in Guatemala where 50% of children, under 5 years of age, are malnourished. It is a heartbreaking cycle of poverty here with no end in sight. Of course this is not isolated only in Guatemala, just spin a globe, stop it with your finger and it is likely that this will be a place where there is poverty – the global statistics are staggeringly horrific for millions and millions of people.
Is there a solution? Yes, and it begins and ends with awakening compassion for our global family and becoming motivated to act where we are; in our homes, neighborhoods, cities and nations. The key is feeling something for the families, mothers and children needlessly suffering. They are not the “others” as sometimes we are made to feel and I can assure you no father or mother wants to live in extreme poverty and watch their children languish because of hunger. Let us be courageous and face the pain of compassion and let it transform passivity into action. The human family needs all hands on deck in this global crisis. Yes there is a solution – we are the solution.
Peace for All…. Greg