What would you say if I told you that you could only eat at 11am today? What if your only choice was a hotdog, baked beans, chips, and cookies? This is your only choice. Eat this or starve.
What would you chose?
I really struggled with this throughout the week in Atlanta, beginning with our service at Action Ministries Soup Kitchen the first day. We were told that our job would include helping to cook and serve a hot meal to women and children that morning for lunch. When we got there and discovered what we would be serving my dietetic mind began to scream. How could I serve these women and young children a meal with processed meat, canned beans, and absolutely no fruits or vegetables with a smile on my face? This may have been the only meal these people would have the opportunity to eat all day, or if they were able to hide some leftovers as they left the kitchen they might get to eat it twice. And yet we were serving them very little nutrition per bite. But that is all the organization had the resources for. This breaks my heart.
And then my mind began to roll. What if this were me? Most of these women were educated and simply victims of circumstance. As my mom pointed out to me one night on the phone, this could happen to anyone. And so I began to question myself…
Would I be able to eat this meal knowing it was pretty low in nutrition but it was my only option? The ED in my head resisted answering yes to this question. I have trouble now eating things I am not comfortable with. But I have the option of saying no because I know that I can make myself something else later.
Good thing God had a plan for me to explore this issue more and more. Thanks to this trip I experienced a small amount of lack of choice in my food. I had no say as to when our group ate meals or where we ate them. O people are hungry on the drive to Atlanta? OK let’s stop at Bojangles. You can only imagine what I am thinking. Except I was too quick to judge and it is a good thing I had an open mind because I was able to find something on the menu that I would willingly eat, and I actually enjoyed it. But it gets better. Meal times were set, eat then or really you don’t have any other time to eat. Meals were simple and not my normal. Breakfast offerings: cereal, grits, toast… none of which I typically eat in the morning. Lunch: lunch meat, cheese, bread, chips, and cookies. Where are the veggies??? Of course I did bring some food (nut butter packets, larabars, almonds, and walnuts…) but I really wanted to get the most out of this experience so I made every effort to eat what was offered and as little of “Shannon food” as possible. That means I had to be very flexible people. I had to talk myself through a few meals, but you know what I came out on the other side healthy and happy despite it all.
But honestly my small amount of lack of choice is nothing compared to the lack of choice the people I served endure every day. I was able to push through because I knew that in a week I would be back to eating my favorite foods in the comfort of my kitchen. But what if for the rest of my life I was limited to the foods of this week? What if there were days when I did not know if I would be able to feed myself?
Now every time I sit down for my meal that I have likely stressed way too much over I am reminded of the people I served this week in Atlanta. Did they eat today? What I wouldn’t give to invite them to my table to cook them a healthy meal. Every meal is a constant reminder that so many people in this world do not have a choice in what they eat, where they eat, or when they eat. I do, and for that I am grateful.
I am blessed. I have the freedom to chose. I can stress out over the what I will eat and not the if I will eat.