One of the potential positive benefits of being hungry (especially if it's voluntary) is that in setting aside your own need for food, you may become more open to the needs of others. That's what happened on Sunday. After church, a young father named Ariko Joseph showed us his sick four-year-old daughter (Nakiru Akoro) who had body swelling and rapid breathing (66 breaths per minute). So while we were looking forward to an ambiguous yet restful sabbath, we were suddenly faced with a huge need: getting this girl to the hospital in Kaabong. Having already set aside our self-gratification in eating (and the daily scheduling that happens around meals), it wasn't a big leap to set aside, well...everything else and basically donate our entire day to someone in need.
I've been looking at the positive aspects of going hungry or fasting, but then on Monday I got a taste (ha!) of one of the darker sides: irritability. Monday was a rough day for me. I got up feeling edgy and anxious. I was in no mood to give my time or energy to anyone. The hot, sweet cup of milk tea that had been so satisfying as a breakfast on Sunday just burned a hole in my shrunken stomach. We spent most of the morning running around here and there in town (which I hate anyway because of the begging and sordid stares), tending mostly to the needs of various Ik patients we are involved with. The closer we got to our lunchtime of beans and maize-mush, the more desperate I felt to feed and feed quickly. When we finally got back to Timu in the early afternoon, I was dead set on getting a couple hours of Me-Work done. But because our day watchman didn't show up, there were kids shouting and banging on our gate like little fiends most of the afternoon. My mood went from bad to worse...until Amber rescued me with an amazing cup of Jamaican Blue coffee.
I guess, then, that living a life of hunger has its ups and downs, just like a life of satisfaction. But getting to personally experience the weakness, mental dullness (last night I tried to write this blog post, but nothing resembling English managed to get typed), and extreme irritability helps me to understand some of the extreme behaviors we've read about or seen among the Karimojong and Ik. Back in 2008 and 2009, there were numerous instances where people would get beat up or even killed at free food distributions. We're talking about people beating up on old ladies and stealing their food. And if you know anything about the book The Mountain People (about the Ik), it describes shocking behaviors like ripping food out of children's or elderly people's mouths. Thankfully we won't reach that stage before Hunger Week is over, but I do get the idea that in the throes of hunger, your deprived flesh can cause you to do some pretty nasty things to your fellow human beings. I hope I can extend more grace in the future to empty people who I feel are mistreating me in my fullness.