Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Last weekend, as we’ve done for the past 3 years, our church youth group participated in World Vision’s “30 Hour Famine”.

The program has two main objectives: 1) to raise money to help feed starving children, and 2) to raise the awareness in our youth of what “hunger” really is, or, at least to give them a vague idea of it.

From noon on Friday until 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, the kids (and the adult volunteers) don’t eat anything. We can have as much water or Gatorade as we want, but no food. We take the kids out to a nearby camp where they build boys & girls shanty-towns out of cardboard boxes. Then they sleep on the ground in their cardboard shelters.

To pass the time, we keep the kids busy with exercises and activities. We have devotions and read scripture. We sit around a campfire with no hotdogs or s’mores. We share the statistics:

26,000 children dead every day from hunger & malnutrition . . .
1,100 children every hour . . .
1 child every 3 seconds . . .

It’s a worthwhile exercise, and by late Saturday afternoon everyone is feeling the effects from the activity, heat, and lack of food & sleep: Fatigue. Headaches. Stomach cramps. Hunger.

Just a taste of what it feels like. A few little sprinkles on the tongue.

The difference is, we know it will all end at 6 o’clock. We know there will be a buffet of food waiting for us to gorge upon. We know that a cool shower, clean clothes, and Tylenol are right around the corner. We know we will sleep in our comfortable beds in air conditioned luxury.

And we know that in a few days, we will forget all about it for another year.

Every time we do this I’m reminded of the photograph below:

If by chance you’re not familiar with it, the photo shows a starving Sudanese girl trying to make it to a United Nations food camp. The vulture is waiting for her to die so it can eat her. The photographer, Kevin Carter, won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for the photograph. He committed suicide a few months later.

I think we can accept the concept of starving children because we don’t have to see them suffer or bury them when they die. Thinking about them interferes with our lives and what we want to do. We don’t like that. It’s uncomfortable.

But what if we did have to see them? What if we did have to bury them? Would we feel any differently then?

1 child every 3 seconds . . .

I think we can accept war because it is not us who has to die. We can accept a million abortions a year because we don’t have to see the mangled bodies of the infants. We can accept torture because it is not us who feels the pain.

We can accept all of these things – and a host of other atrocities – simply because we don’t have to deal with them ourselves.

But what if we did?

I make no judgments except against myself.


dogear6 said...

Great post! It's a very thought provoking way of living the problem and getting an appreciation for it.

Anonymous said...

I remember the first time I saw that photo. My momma heart cried hard. It is such a sad photo. I have caught myself thinking of what happened to that girl. I have never known.

Hunger is a horrible feeling. If it was not for the Salvation Army I don't know if I would have eaten very much when I was a child. My parents didn't (wouldn't) work and got food stamps which means we feasted for the first week of the month, had some food for the second and was begging the Salvation Army or local churches/food pantries for handouts. The summer break was hardest. No school breakfast and lunches to make our belly full.

Mrs. Damian Garcia