Friday, November 04, 2011

Thoughts on the Third World Fast

Earlier this week I spent three days eating only rice and lentils for every meal, with no snacks in between. The purpose of this Third World Fast was to help me identify with people around the world who largely survive on just rice or beans for survival. I also hoped to gain a deeper appreciation for how blessed I am to be surrounded by such an abundance of food on a daily basis.

I have to say that this was harder for me than not eating anything at all. Usually when I fast from food I drink lots of water and maybe juice to keep my energy up. In this case I was able to eat but only at mealtimes and when I did eat it was only a single serving of very bland rice or lentils.

One thing I realized was how much I eat for the sheer pleasure of eating. I love the flavors, the textures, the aromas, and the variety of foods I enjoy on a regular basis. Rather than eating for sustenance, I eat mainly to enjoy the experience. This Third World Fast took all of that pleasure away.

I found myself getting very hungry right before it was time to eat again. My mouth would begin to water for food, but not for the taste of it, only for the experience of having my stomach filled so that I would not feel hunger again until the next meal time.

One brother who wrote to me this week to share his Third World Fast experience agreed:

“I must say I have fasted before eating no food, but I think this was even more difficult. By dinner last night I was ready to skip eating altogether rather than facing the rice and beans again! I am not and never will be a fan of rice anyhow so that made it doubly challenging. As I forced myself to eat last night I was thinking about the blessings of variety in America and how even though we are going through economic hard times, many of us have yet to know true suffering and sacrifice.

Also the fast has made for some intriguing and engaging conversation with my soon to be 7-year-old daughter. She did not participate in the fast, but she sure was curious about what her mother and father were doing. I was very proud that she got past the "yucky beans" to really understand what was going on.

Thank you very much for sharing this experience with my family. Tonight as I eat whatever I want, I will be all the more thankful to my Father for providing me with a truly amazing bounty.”

After breaking my fast I found myself feeling more thankful for my food, and not just food but everything else in my life. My prayers lately are filled with thanksgiving to God for my wife, my sons, my job, my church family, my house, my cars, my friends, and more. I am so blessed.

The Friday before I started my Third World Fast our company fed our entire marketing department breakfast. We were served eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, pancakes, fruit, and coffee. Of course, there was so much food that many had seconds or thirds, and afterwards they still had food left over which ended up being tossed into the garbage.

That same day I emailed my friend Vilbert who lives in India to share all of this with him and he surprised me by explaining that he had never heard of, nor tasted, waffles, pancakes, sausage or bacon. He confirmed that his family eats rice for every meal, with curried vegetables and maybe twice a month they would eat chicken, although most could only eat chicken once per month. This reminded me of how my friend Robert Higgins, who died last year from bone cancer, had told me he had never tasted lobster in his life. All of these realizations jolt me into an awareness of my own extravagance. I am so rich. I am so blessed.

So, with all of this in mind I spent three days eating only rice and lentils and praying for God to change my heart and open my eyes.

This 3 day fast was very hard for me, I must admit. I've become so used to having access to such an endless variety of foods and snacks and candy that to eat only rice became a struggle, but one that I’m glad I endured in order to understand more viscerally how people around the world survive each day.

I am so blessed, and if you are reading this in America, chances are that you are too. Food is not so much an issue for you and I. We can find it easily. Even the homeless and those living in poverty in America can usually find free or low-cost sources for food without much trouble. But for most of our planet this is not the case. Most people eat once a day if they’re lucky, and when they do it’s usually rice or beans.

I’m not sure when I’ll do this experiment again, but I’m glad I’ve had this opportunity to share in the sufferings of so many around the world. Of course, I have the privilege of choosing to eat this way whenever I like. Most people do not have this luxury.

If your'e interested in learning more about what people eat around the world, take a look at this fascinating slideshow comparison of what different families eat on a weekly basis in different nations.


P.S. – If you did this 3 day, Third World Fast with me I’d love to share your story with everyone here, too. Either write your experiences in the comments below or send me a direct email to let me know what God taught you through all of this.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I tried and I failed. I made a big pot of rice and dal (indian spiced lentils) Sunday night and I did eat that for most of my meals this week but I wasn't able to stick only to that. I was harder than the weekly fast that I've been doing perhaps because I wasn't abstaining entirely. I'd actually like to eat like this most of the I'm working towards it.