Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Kale and how I know nothing about hunger

I was killing time today just before VBS pickup when I decided to go into a very fancy grocery store. After wandering for a while, I chose some kale. Everyone and their mother seems to be making kale chips these days; I thought I'd give it a try (ie. trick my kids into eating a new vegetable by calling them chips). While paying, I wondered if the check-out girl had also made these chips. The odds were in my favor, so I asked if she had any advice. Sure enough, she was a kale chip expert. But almost immediately, I realized her advice was useless. First she said something about using a food dehydrator. Which lost me. I have a hard enough time keeping my kids, myself, my pets and my vegetable garden hydrated. I don't need anything in my life that actually encourages dehydration. So when she mentioned mixing the chips with some substance called miso paste, I was already not listening. Not that I even know to which food group miso paste belongs.

Moving on. The kale chips turned out good. One of my two kids sort of mostly liked them, after salting them to the point of erasing any health benefit the vegetable could have had. But I'm not bothered by that, tonight, nearly as much as I've been bothered - no, haunted - by Kristen's posts this week over at Rage Against the Minivan. 

Kristen has been in Ethiopia with Food for the Hungry Bloggers. She's been sharing stories of children and families who don't have enough food. They don't have enough anything. It's caused me to think about food all week, and more importantly, my feelings about food, my casual indulgence, my sense of entitlement when it comes to food, and my habitual ingratitude.

The thing is that I've tried to assimilate the information about the state of affairs of these Ethiopian families and shape it into a productive act of mercy on my part. Of course, the whole objective is that the reader's heart is moved to the point of helping. Tangibly. Not just spectating, or experiencing a warm swell of compassion, but becoming invested and engaged.

But I'm good at math, and as a family, we don't have any extra to give. I say that with uncertainty. I say that feeling a little sick, knowing I'm surrounded by excess and wealth, relatively, simply because I have a home, a car, and 5,000 other things that those families do not have. And yet, my husband and I narrowly escaped an argument tonight over the question of how exactly his decent income so quickly disappears every month. The math doesn't lie, but I also understand I live in a paradigm and a culture of self-indulgence and material accumulation. I spent my evening trying to perfectly toast a kale chip and wanting to complain on Instagram about how much laundry I have to do. Never once did I feel grateful for that laundry, or consider giving half of it away to someone who really needs clothing.

We are so downright quick to meet our own needs out of our abundance, we forget most of the world doesn't - can't - live that way.

I'm simply having a hard time wrapping my mind around this: I live in utter luxury compared to the families in Ethiopia. And yet compared to many families around me in Orange County, CA, we live in scarcity. I'm bothered by the paradox. I'm bothered by not knowing exactly how to change things. I'm bothered by not having "room" to be generous to the poor. Something's wrong, and God help us if we don't try to make it right. God help us if we, His children, don't work this out on a very personal level.  

Some people see socioeconomic disparities in the world as injustice, and sometimes they even blame God for it. The truth is that we live in an unjust world. It's broken, and sin rules it with an iron fist. It wasn't God's plan A, but it is all part of his permissive will. He's allowing injustice for reasons we don't dare guess (or question). However, one thing of which I'm certain is that God himself is perfectly just. And therefore, we will all be judged for how we treated the poor. We will all be asked how we managed our resources. And God probably isn't going to be calling us into account by county.

I might be in line ahead of a mother from Ethiopia. When it's my turn to answer how I spent my money, I just have a feeling the "we didn't have room" argument isn't going to stand.

{look at the faces of the hungry here,
even see how long each child has been waiting
for a sponsor if you click on his or her photo.}



  1. I get this. Here we have enough and then some. There they have some and never enough. As I buy things I remind myself that I MUST help other when I buy so things like TOMS Shoes, Compassion's Water of Life Buckets, Mosquito Nets, and Sevenly tshirts are helping others.
    In this world I believe we're given abundance to HELP others, not collect resources and hoard them for ourselves. It's been a tough lesson to learn as we're absorbed into American culture instead of God's culture.

  2. I understand! I struggle mightily with guilt for what I have. I remember one Christmas where I gave so much to others we had skimp on presents for family. I'm not sure getting second rate gifts because they are cheap in order to give past the point of hurting is helpful. I search out products that give back, like watches from Hello Somebody, scarves from fashionABLE, and bags from Freeset. We sponsor 2 children and 1 missionary as a part of our tithe to the kingdom. Meaning we don't only tithe to our church. We split up our tithe. I try to learn about fair trade companies and do something about it. Little somethings like only drinking fair trade coffee which means I don't get coffee many other places than my house.
    The weight of our excess can be crushing. I know Satan regularly attacks me by telling me that I am not doing enough. I need to give more or do more. My husband does an amazing job of keeping me in check. And when I feel that way, I stop and take stock of my trust in God. Do I trust God enough to deal with these world problems or am I trying to do it all on my own? I'll be praying for you as you tread these waters of balancing the world and your family.

  3. i often sit down and the table and look into my childrens eyes humbled and amazed that i can feed. they've never known hunger and i can't imagine being a mommy and looking at my children unable to feed them. i'm also amazed that it has nothing to do with me. God choose me to be born here, but I could have as easly been born to a loving mother in Africa who didn't have the resources to feed me. it's really more than i can wrap my head around.

  4. Thanks for your honest thoughts, Leslie. I agree that we will have to give an account for how we used the resources he gave us...parable of the talents maybe? I wrestle with this often. Have you read Jen Hatmaker's book 7? If not, watch out. The Spirit may use it to mess you up in a holy way.

  5. Oh goodness. Exactly right. I myself found myself just yesterday about to complain for what I thought was lacking and at that moment saw the excess I was surrounded by. We have to find a better balance.

  6. wow! This hit home with me. Our income is so stretched thin I feel like there is no room to give how I want to. I want to write checks to each one of the charities I regularly read about without a second thought. And sometimes its in that second thought that I find God. He always shows me how we can stretch that dollar a little more. But sometimes the money just isn't there. And that makes me sad. Thanks for the very thought provoking post. Have a great day!

    1. So well said. This is definitely how I feel.

  7. Oh Leslie...you have inspired me to finally share a beautiful bold story about faith and giving.


    I am seriously a prisoner to my bank account. But God has shown me in a beautiful way that he always provides.