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Making Me Think

 Subway sandwich store, Sao Paolo, by YDLR
I'm almost ready to go back to the delightful days I spent in Minnesota and share with you the sights and insights of those days. My brain is being willful, though, and won't quite let me go there at the moment.

The famine half a world away still has my thoughts pinned down. The thoughts are ones that take some of my  self-created comfort away, even as they bring me a welcome kind of awakening.  I sent a donation to Unicef, and I feel very good about that. As I watched Rozanne Chorlton, Unicef representative in Somalia, I felt quite humbled. She has the face of the perfect mother or grandmother, benevolent and radiant. She stood among the masses of people, a tangerine colored scarf covering her head, and a bulletproof vest on her torso, telling the media how important it was to keep trying to reach even beyond the thousands of desperate people swarming around her in a refugee outpost.

I was humbled by the grief on the face of the father who had walked for four days to get food for his son and did not yet know if the food would be enough and in time enough to save his son's life.

These news reports are forcing me (I say forcing, because I don't really want to follow this line of self-questioning) to look at my 21st-century, industrialized-nation relationship to food.  A relationship heavily influenced (and distorted) by advertising and accessibility.  How easy it is for me to forget the wise words of naturalist Aldo Leopold, who wrote: "Heat does not come from the furnace, and breakfast does not come from the grocery store."

I wonder if I can become more "sober" about my own relationship with food. How insane is it that at 6 p.m. I can see a newscast about thousands of starving, dying children, then go to a supermarket 10 minutes from my house and walk down an entire aisle of nothing but "chips" or make a decision for dessert between Reese's Peanut Butter Cups or Justin's Organic Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups? This is a kind of juxtaposition that can only be described as schizophrenic.

So, my questions to myself are:  When I walk down those aisles of plenty, can I remember the children, not only in Somalia, but in my own country, who suffer from lack of food, who, in fact, may be dying from lack of sustenance?  Can I see and feel the blessing of the fresh fruit, vegetables, and safe meat that I can choose from, without resorting to thinking about what kind of food I am in the "mood" to eat? Can I keep my head clear when the idiocy of the Pepperidge Farm commercial airs, the one that proclaims that "Chocolate is good for the soul."?  On days when I am "in the mood for" something other than what is already in my cupboard, can I muster the discipline to eat what I already have without going out for that one thing I don't already have?

I make a small monthly donation to my local food bank and contribute to food drives, but that does not make my own food life "clean" or my food conscience "clear." The fact that I donate to causes to help with hunger does not qualify me to ever meet a famine victim and be able to hold my head high in their suffering presence. Perhaps that is why the news reports humble me so. I don't like to admit it, but my sheer luck in life has led me to be casual and cavalier about food, to forget my dependence on a host of factors and people, to see food exactly as Aldo Leopold advised me not to, thinking of my local supermarket as an ongoing fountain of comestibles (whose price increases are also ongoing).

Well, I have asked the questions now. Only time will tell how well I am able to live the answers.


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