The Right Thing To Do by Jennifer Grey
April 11th, 2011
This guest blog posting is from my friend Jennifer Grey who is the staff leader for the ACCESS of West Michigan/GRACE Hunger Walk happening May 7. I asked her to write about her experience because to me it just seemed…well, the right thing to do. Thanks, Jennifer.
I started a fast last week. Along with a host of others responding to proposed budget cuts designed to cut back efforts to reduce poverty in our country and around the world, I joined a call to “Fast, Pray and Protect Programs for the Poor”. I joined because I care about those programs and the people they protect (sometimes literally protect, as in, keep alive). I joined because the idea of fasting and praying seemed within my reach – I find myself disheartened, discouraged and even disturbed by the current state of affairs in my world, my country, my state – and most of the time, I have no clue what I can do about it. It overwhelms me. Scares me. Saddens me. Turning to God in fasting and prayer seemed…well, the thing to do.
Seeing the need to have enough energy and brainpower to care for my family and keep my job, I chose to eliminate just two meals from my daily diet. Not a starve-yourself-eat-nothing-at-all-save-water fast, but a one-small-meal-a-day-supplemented-with-fresh-juice fast. A rich person’s fast, I called it, constantly aware that my hunger was choice – and consciously aware of the many people whose hunger is not.
Over the week I experienced several uncomfortable side effects. Like sleeplessness, headaches, dull-wittedness and irritability. But mostly, hunger. When you are hungry, pretty much all you can think about is the fact that you are hungry. And food. You think about food. And when you can’t eat, thinking about food just isn’t that much fun.
Believe it or not, I found the praying harder than the fasting. Don’t get me wrong; certain kinds of prayer are perfectly easy for me – like, “Thank you, God.” And from the beginning, I was wholly thankful and exceedingly grateful that my hunger was a choice, that I was not suffering the effects of devastating poverty or watching my children die of malaria. And fasting definitely seems to “lift the veil” – the dull-wittedness that my co-workers and family witnessed was due in part to a deep pull towards that “still small voice within”. The hard part? Fighting back the desire to tell God what to do. And how to do it. Being ok with simply asking for guidance, wisdom and compassion. For me, for congress, for our country, for everybody everywhere. And at week’s end, being ok with feeling no more wise or guided than when I began, and the likeliness that the budget-makers were not either. Just for the record, I’m still working on it. I can’t speak for the budget-makers.
The Circle of Protection
Like most, I’ve had some hard times in my life. I’ve lost jobs, and homes, and dreams. More than once, my kids and I have relied on family, friends, our church and at times, federal and state funded programs to help us meet our basic needs – like food and shelter. I am keenly aware that life can change on a dime, and there is every possibility that we might need to rely on them in the future. But we’re lucky. We have a circle. Not everyone does.
I fasted and prayed last week because even with a circle of protection, facing empty cupboards, an empty bank account and hungry children is terrifying and painful. I fasted and prayed last week because I am fortunate enough to have cupboards and a bank account, and I want to be a part of a larger circle that protects the most vulnerable people everywhere. If prayer helps, then I’ll pray. If fasting helps, then I’ll fast. If calling and writing my legislators and representatives to tell them what is important to me helps, I’ll call and I’ll write. I’ll keep working to end hunger and poverty and the conditions that create them, in whatever way I can. Because it seems…well, the thing to do.