Hunger Pains

Lesson for the week: Hunger can be good and bad.

Are you hungry? Many of us are on new 2018 “diets” and we know the deep rumble in our stomachs. It’s the bad kind of hunger. The kind that hurts and nothing can quench it (at least nothing that won’t make you feel bad about yourself for failing). Or the kind that is unquenchable because your cupboards are bare. Hunger isn’t always about food, but after running a 30-hour famine retreat with my youth group this weekend, I can tell you sometimes it has everything to do with food. For 815 million people around the world, hunger is a way of life. Malnutrition is responsible for half of all deaths of children under age 5. Sobering. Are you hungry?

Many people around the world walk several hours a day to get water just to quench their thirst, and when they return, there is only water for dinner.

Hunger can also sometimes make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. Last week I was hungry for a nap. After late nights of working and a long plane flight for business, I hungered for just a few minutes of sleep. While waiting for the front desk to text me that my room was ready, I fell asleep by the pool of my fancy hotel. The security guards thought I was a homeless person and put me under “house arrest” until I could produce an alibi. Once I did, they left, with no apology. The front desk heard about the incident and when I finally got to my room there was a bottle of champagne, macaroons and a handwritten apology from the manager. The range of emotions was broad and deep. (I actually wanted to take the champagne outside and share it with all the homeless people.) Hunger. It makes you do things you normally wouldn’t do.

Hungry for rest? This is a nice place to lay your head. Or maybe not.

Hunger sometimes makes us do things we shouldn’t, too. Jean Valjean can tell you that. So can my son. He knows hunger this week. He desperately wanted to go to college after taking a semester off to heal from a herniated disc–one that prevents him from sitting for any reasonable length of time. He thought he was better enough to go this semester, but it was just his hunger talking.  It only took a week in class to realize the pain was too much to take. Sometimes we do things because of hunger that we shouldn’t.

Sometimes you just hunger to sit down for a meal on campus like everyone else.

Hunger can also be good. It can make you try things…challenge yourself. I also did that this week (it’s been a busy week). It was the good kind of hunger. The type that makes you realize there are opportunities to feel full again. And just peeking in the bakery window at the macaroons is sometimes enough to motivate you to change. I’ve seen the pastries. I’m ready to change. My son has tasted the pastries and now he wants them even more. Hunger can be good.

Hunger to change.

Hunger to solve problems.

Hunger to heal.

Hunger to feel better.

Hunger to serve the world.

It’s 2018. The start of something new. Are you hungry?

Choosing to Give. Choosing to Receive.

kickball

Kickin’ it with kids. What choice do I have?

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”– Albus Dumbledore

Dumbledore is a man of few, but profound words. October means it is time for my Harry Potter marathon—a Potter movie (or two) every weekend until Halloween. I just finished watching The Chamber of Secrets and the headmaster’s words quoted above have been sticking with me.

His words echoed in my head this weekend as I spent some time playing kickball with homeless kids. As I started my work week, I carried with me the smiles on their faces, the high fives, the laughter, and the excitement from the game. A simple game played in a parking lot with hula hoops for bases.

The kids and their families chose to embrace the moment. To enjoy the company of strangers. To pray for their blessings. To play and have fun regardless of their abilities or their situations. I have nothing but admiration for those kids. They are making the best of their situation—living in cubical bedrooms with tarps for walls. Sleeping on cots. Yet choosing to enjoy life whenever life gives them enjoyable things—not dwelling on what they don’t have, but what they do.

Spending my free time serving others may have some labeling me a “do gooder” trying to earn some Earthly praise or cosmic medal or maybe even work my way to heaven. Not at all.  I do hope I’m helping, but the reality is what I receive often outweighs what I give. The giving and receiving are practically indistinguishable.  The two together make something beautiful, healing, and the closest thing to heaven I have ever experienced—whether I’m giving or receiving. I can hardly ever tell which is which.

This world is a broken mess. We can’t make it whole again. But we can fill the cracks with mortar. Still broken, but patched together–the giver and the receiver—one in the same. We can choose to be together and find joy despite the flaws.

Thanks for the game kids!

It’s our choices that show us who we really are. Indeed.