Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spirit of Solidarity

Even these words, Spirit of Solidarity, meaning "vigorous sense of membership in community, unity, fellowship", just don't seem adequate. But I don't know how else to describe this unexplainable drive to experience the inequality faced by more than half the world personally. To feel a bond with those who live like this every day. To release a fear of scarcity.

Maybe because every injustice that tugs on my heart strings is just not in my power to change, the least I can do is put myself in their shoes for a time.

So, I participated in this Solidarity Challenge through our Church from last Monday to Friday, yesterday.

I added my own extra challenge to also do my best to spend no more than $2 per day. Now unless I sold my house and quit my job, that isn't really possible, but what I did do was try to have no personal spending, only travelled in our vehicle for work and volunteer commitments, kept almost all electronics off at home other than appliances, and tried conserving in as many aspects as I could, water and energy for example.

This was far different than any fast I've ever done, although partly for the same reason, a chance to let God move my heart through this experience.  This was self-denial on a whole different level!  I think it almost would have been easier to eat nothing than eat rice & beans with nothing else that first day, the taste factor was awful, but I got through it with two thoughts.  First, it was better than the sea cucumbers I had just seen on Fear Factor last Sunday.  Second was the story our pastor told about a person who had done missions in a poverty stricken area and decided to treat them with chocolate chip cookies, but got a little indignant when they didn't appear to enjoy her thoughtful treat.....until someone reminded her they eat for survival not taste. Ouch. So, I made sure to eat every drop, very conscious of that familiar saying here in North America, 'a starving child in Africa would be ecstatic to eat that food on your plate you don't want to eat.' That wasn't my only challenge that first day, the offer of my co-workers to do a Dairy Queen run was just about torture.

The second day brought flavor and enough ingredients to make a pretty good minestrone, so it was actually a breeze physically.  But mentally I couldn't stop thinking about the abundance of comforts I still had even though I had a mere 550 calories per day.  I could turn on clean water anytime I wanted, at any temperature,  for drinking, for cleanliness, for plumbing reasons, for a hot and relaxing shower after walking our doggy room-mate for walks in the chill we've been experiencing lately. I had the convenience of soft paper towels, kleenex and toilet paper to make my life cushiony. Not to mention climate controlled, stable and protective housing with soft rugs, furniture, with closets full of clothes that are far more than tools of warmth. I had a stove and crockpot to make my cooking easy and a fridge to keep my food. Although I ate my entire portions of food, if I hadn't used all my ingredients I had the ability to store them properly for future use instead of facing the pressure to make the best use of every ounce of food at every instance. Wow, that weighed on my mind heavily.

My minestrone soup.

The third day my hunger was a little more obvious, but what was most obvious to me was the limits I had on my life. Even though I knew they were self-imposed, and that they would end in two days, it was getting harder not to immediately appease my many psychological needs, like increasing boredom (most lunch hours used to be spent in bloggy land), emotional eating, energy boosters like caffeine and sugar, even vitamin C to ward off a cold. So many 'remedies' that are normally at our disposal but I began to see how trivial these distressers were and instead of needing to remedy them I began to tackle the 'need' I felt for them.  Interesting I could finally stand up to issues I've had, like boredom eating, during this exercise (yet writing this on Saturday I can already somewhat feel the lesson waining).

The fourth day was the absolute worst! The hunger pains had fully taken over and were there from the moment I woke until I went to sleep, even though I got to add some bread. I had got a chill that lasted from Wednesday afternoon to Thursday night, but it's not like I could avoid the outside, as the doggy needed walks and it was my job (condition of Sean agreeing to doggy-sitting), so I just had this constant chill that I could not shake. I had hardly any energy or focus, I wanted to sleep early so I could stop feeling this complete physical discomfort. I gave into watching t.v. so I could be distracted from it. I got cravings for food I really hate, like fish fillets from Mcdonalds, EW! I was so close to giving up even though there was only until Friday 6 pm left. But I kept turning to why I was doing this in the first place.

My beans, rice, carrots, green peppers and curry (pictured on a small plate)

I thought my brain understood scarcity after our Justice Journey at Church, and in a way the amount I was allowed to eat in this challenge was more than my other fasts, but those were shorter, and I really hoped to make my knowledge complete by having a physical experience as well, allowing my whole being to experience suffering and denial. Focusing on survival not choice, availability, deservedness or even enjoyment.

Friday I realized how far from survival and deep gratefulness I really was.  The closest I came was being so very thankful for the vegetables and spice on Tuesday, and how desperately glad I was to have that piece of bread on Thursday.  Although I did end the challenge 4 hours early, because of a birthday celebration at work, faced with all my co-workers eating delicious homemade chocolate banana cake, I didn't go overboard like I thought I might the night before.  I denied myself a donut that was sitting around the office all day (although I saved one to have after supper). 

I still had the original supper in the solidarity plan. I didn't snack anymore than I usually do on a Friday night. But I savored each freedom I was able to exercise in my diet after 6 pm.

I of course realize I didn't do a darn thing to actually change the injustices that happen all over the world, but I do think I accomplished to change a lot in myself.  I have a rather large list of injustices I'm passionate about, I need to start choosing which ones I can actually do something about, and the time I've had to think this week has already helped with that.  I'm trying to be conscious of the effectiveness of my efforts, I'm trying to avoid the 'charity project' pattern that's easy to fall into, so I guess that leaves my first step as actually connecting with these communities that break my heart, so we can partner together for a new justice journey.

What injustices break your heart? Have you thought of how you can partner in changing that?

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