Friends who know us well often check on our dietary requirements before inviting us for dinner. It’s not that we have allergies or intolerances, but more an awkward habit of challenging ourselves. Whether it’s going without chocolate or meat, or one Lent going without other drinks but water, we apparently enjoy limiting ourselves. We like the discipline, the break to routine, the appreciation that grows during the fast.
We recently spent a month attempting to live off a similar grocery budget to our neighbours. I’m under no illusion that we are in a privileged position to even choose to go without. Buying less and simpler food doesn’t do anything to improve the lives of those around us, but it is certainly good for our own hearts and attitudes.
I find that chocolate has healing powers at the end of a hard day, but I’ve realised that this is not the only way I find comfort in food. Knowing that our cupboards are full is reassuring, and I enjoy considering our options for dinner. During our simple food month we surrendered our dairy, our snacks and our range of choices. I saw how accustomed I am to the simple luxury of a varied diet, a sense of entitlement to three daily balanced meals. And as I longed for the end of the month to fill my cupboards again, I identified a little with the reality for too many people. I hope this will make me more compassionate next time someone hungry crosses my path.
While we were in the UK earlier in the year, we heard stories of returned missionaries overwhelmed by well-stocked supermarket shelves. After just a couple of months back in our familiar world, I felt myself distance from the poverty and simplicity of life here. Here, it feels like any decision to spend money on myself is contrasted against the inability of my neighbours to make some of the same frivolous choices. The tension is uncomfortable, yet real. Living in the West, it’s so easy to become numb to that discomfort, to ignore our privilege. We plan to make our Simple Food Month an annual practice; with the hope it will make us aware throughout the year of those who do not have. Sometimes my privilege leaves a bad taste in my mouth, yet instead of rinsing it away, I hope that flavour reminds me to be compassionate and seek justice.
‘I’m starting to see that God prefers me living in this tension, where with every meaningless purchase, the reel of faces spins – faces of dear friends, our people whom we love, brothers and sisters a world away whom we’ve never met but who still live inside our hearts somehow’