Rice & Beans

I'm horrible at self-discipline. Sacrifice is particularly rough for me and developing new patterns for myself practically kills me, to be honest. It's part of the human condition. We're made to be selfish and to guard our rights and possessions. And we think we deserve it all, like we've somehow earned what we have and it's ours.

I took a challenge this week. I spent three days eating only rice and beans. It was supposed to be five, according to the challenge. I only made it through three, and here's what I've learned (or at least remembered):
  1. I'm weak and I need the support of my family and community. I was encouraged not to give up by my husband and several members of my community who also participated in this challenge, who acted as support, accountability and others who could identify with what I felt. I don't even attend the church which sponsored this challenge, but I learned about it through a friend, and it was something that I felt would be a good exercise for me in compassion, understanding, and even in spiritual discipline. This is the longest "fast" of any kind that I've ever done, and frankly, I'm actually proud I lasted as long as I did.
  2. I live in an environment full of temptation. I'm not really sure which is worse, having no choice but to go to bed hungry, like the people with whom I set out to identify, or going to bed hungry because I CHOSE to participate in this, knowing that there were all sorts of other options in my house and watching my children eat whatever they wanted. There was ice cream in my freezer, bagels in my refrigerator, Oreos on my counter, all kinds of processed "convenience" foods in my pantry. There is also a slew of menus from various restaurants in the area to call for carry-out or delivery, and money in our checking account to be able to do so when "necessary."
A friend told me that this sort of exercise did nothing for her, that she's identified with "third world" countries by being there and walking the streets. For her, that's enough "awareness." For me, even after having walked through the villages of Grenada -- seeing the dirty huts they call homes, watching them climb trees to find bananas and mangoes just so they can have lunch, and eagerly awaiting the one delivery of water a day to their village just to have a drink (I'm not sure when - if ever - they had baths or showers and I don't know where they went to the bathroom) -- even after seeing all that and feeling my heart break, you know what I did? I returned back to the "base" where we stayed and had a warm shower, changed into clean clothes, and drank a tall glass of water. I grabbed a fresh banana from the stash in the cellar, and waited to be called to a huge dinner in the "mansion" house. My biggest concern was whether I had enough sunscreen for the trip to the beach the next day and I knew that I had a soft bed to look forward to, but still complained about sharing the room with the other girls because they were "noisy."

Stepping out of my comfort zone was essential to my understanding and awareness. It was an exercise in compassion. Even knowing it was temporary, it hurt. And I spent three days hurting deeply for those around the world who don't have a choice about what they eat. I have utmost respect for anyone who doesn't practice spiritual disciplines, and do not in anyway look down on them. We are all where we are, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Another friend mentioned that he was glad that the "golden goat" he worshipped didn't make him do things like that. While I laughed a little at the comment, I was frustrated at the same time. No one made me do this, and no one is a lesser person for NOT doing it. Like all practices, you get what you give, and it was all about the decision to participate and engage myself fully in the exercise. I wanted to learn. I wanted to be changed. And if I'd done it just to "jump on the bandwagon," I don't think it would have done anything for me either.

But I needed to be reminded of how blessed I am. I needed to be reminded that it's not a right to have the luxuries I think I "need." And I needed to be reminded in a very practical way that there are those who aren't so "lucky" and that there has to be more I can do.

And I was never so thankful for the gift of the warm bagel I had for breakfast this morning.


Amy Good said...

Neen: That is an amazing post. I can very much relate to your trip to Grenada. Our to St. Lucia was the same and my heart broke to go through those areas, see the burial grounds and how the poor were buried. I tear up every time I see the picture. But, like you, I came home a little more thankful, but did nothing and my feeling quickly was forgotten until the next time through the pictures.

The rice and beans has been a huge jump for me as well. I have spent my days longing for chocolate or lasgna or whatever, but knowing that others aren't that blessed. My flavored coffee I drink each morning? They wouldn't have. My extra helping of rice and beans because the small portion didn't fill my stomach? They wouldn't have.

After it all is done, I'm wondering what I will be driven to do because of it. I want to do more than just throw money at something, but realize that may be the only way.

Thanks for posting!

OtherBrotherDarrell said...

I feel that too much time is spent being concerned with matters outside our borders when those same people jumping to the attention of 3rd world people are putting much less to no effort in helping or even interacting with the people of their own community. Even, for example, communicating with the members of their Twitter community (where I learned of this post) is a way these 3rd world enthusiasts lack empathy for their immediate neighbors. They are SO cliquish that the don't let people in or actually interact with new local people even when the newbie tries over and again to connect with them. Yet, they expell over and again how they are the high and mighty saviors of the 3rd world. Don't forget your own people! And, no, you DEFINITELY are not one of these people I'm talking about specifically. You are great person with a very kind heart who does interact with those in your community and the world around you... at least from what I've gathered in the short time I've interacted with you. Thanks.

kj said...

Congratulations on taking the challenge and for making it so long. When you can't travel, it's a wonderful way to connect in a small way on what it's like for so many in the world.
We are so spoiled.
Good for you for breaking out of your comfort zone!