The hunger was a topic of much discussion over the next couple days leading up to our own Hunger Dinner.
Do kids only eat rice sometimes?
What if they are really hungry?
Why is it again that they can’t find food?
Don’t their parents know how to get food from a store?
So, for how many days would they feel hungry?
The evening for our Hunger Dinner arrived with great anticipation.
The boys decided that the “fancy meal” for one would be at their favorite local hamburger joint. I made the rice meals for three of us.
We made the box and the slips of paper. We rolled up the slips of paper with “rice meal” and “fancy meal” written on them. I pretty much figured that there would be disappointment from the youngest child if he didn’t get “fancy” and that we would work out how we were feeling as we were eating our food.
When Dad FINALLY arrived home . . . the boys were in high anticipation about what would happen. Even though Dad came home at the regular time, the boys were sure he was WAY LATE.
We all sat down in the living room and talked about why we were doing this. The boys were antsy. So, we jumped right in.
He was in tears. And, my Mommy Heart was breaking! What had we done? Was this lesson worth his disappointment, his sadness, his anger? Was this the WORST experience we had EVER agreed to do in teaching our kids about the needs of others?
Then, another surprise.
This one from Little Brother.
If you look at the picture above, you’ll see Little Brother on the right. Little Brother wasn’t upset that he was going to have a non-fancy meal. He was concerned about his big brother.
At this point, I was not sure about this whole Hunger Dinner . . . the idea to experience it in this way. Truly, we were not experiencing hunger. None of us had gone without a meal or snack. Each of us knew we had food in the pantry and fridge.
After we finished our rice meals, Dad took us to the local hamburger joint and shared his fancy meal with us. No more tears, no more angry demands that I make things fair.
I talked with Big Brother about what he was feeling. I think that he was surprised to feel so angry about not pulling the “fancy meal” paper out of the box for himself. He knew that could happen, and, yet, he felt mad and sad at actually experiencing the situation. One thing to intellectualize an experience, another thing to actually live through the experience.
“I didn’t like that.”
“That was harder than I thought.”
“It wasn’t fair.”
“If we ever have to do that again, it needs to be more fair.” When I asked him about the kids that are hungry NOW, how do we make it fair for them? He sat quietly and then said,“We do everything we can.”
In a private moment, my husband and I talked together and shared how hard that was for us to experience. I knew that I would be sharing this for the Moms Fighting Hunger Blog Hop. How would I write it all up and still make sense? And, then my husband said:
Can you imagine being parents where there is no handy “fancy meal” to share?
Can you imagine the anguish for parents that cannot provide for their children? How that must feel.
How did your parents feel when they struggled with money when you were growing up?
Immediately, I felt as if I had run smack into a wall, forcing all the breath from my being. And, I cried. I cried with how desperate and powerless that would feel and the guilt that would come from feeling that I wasn’t able to provide a basic necessity for my kids.
I cried, feeling ashamed, because, for most of the evening, I felt like I had asked my boys to do something too hard. In fact, I was asking them to learn a hard lesson, to imagine what it is like to be another, to develop empathy. I was ashamed because *I* was uncomfortable in watching them in a very short-term state of discomfort. They had the courage to be willing to try it. Where was my courage in giving them space to be uncomfortable? I don’t know that I am articulating myself very well. In all, I left the Hunger Dinner experience with wider eyes and a softer heart.
A week later:
I informally interviewed the boys about the Hunger Dinner.
Big Brother: That was not fun. We need to make things more fair for everyone.
Little Brother: That was fun!
Me: Why was it fun?
Little Brother: I got to eat some fries.
(clearly, each boy has his own perspective)
Me: What do you want to do now after our Hunger Dinner?
Little Brother: (quietly) Serve people. Help them.
We all can do something to help fight hunger in our community, in our nation, and globally. The boys and I will continue to work with our local food pantry and learn more about hunger and how to help. I will remember this lesson in empathy.