If you are anything like me, you might have overdone it in the eating department during the holidays. I did okay, but definitely ate more sweets than normal. I was thinking about this the other day; I have not felt physical hunger for a while now. Do you remember the last time you felt physical hunger? I mean the type of hungry where you can’t focus on anything else. Yesterday, I went without eating from noon to 7:30 PM and that was about as hungry as I have been in a long time.
I always reserve the first 21 days of the New Year to fast. I participate in what is called a Daniel fast with some friends of mine. It is essentially a fruits, vegetable, nuts, and grains diet for 21 days with only water to drink. I do this for a variety of reasons but the main reason is to remember what it feels like to be hungry. I do not want to write out my goals while I am full; I want to be hungry when I am thinking about what I want to accomplish!
According to feedingamerica.org, there are hunger issues in this country that are very real. Here are some statistics from 2015:
- 2 million Americans lived in food insecure households, including 13.1 million children.
- 13 percent of households were food insecure.
- 5 percent of households experienced very low food security.
This problem of course is not limited to the United States. According to World Food Program (WFP.org) it is a global issue. Here are some global statistics for 2015:
- Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people.
- The vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 percent of the population is undernourished.
- Asia is the continent with the most hungry people – two thirds of the total. The percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly.
- Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the highest prevalence of hunger (1 person in 4 is undernourished).
There are of course many more statistics I could throw at you to toy with your emotions, but that is not the point. The point is not even to raise your level of awareness of the world’s real issue of physical hunger (although if you read this I hope you feel compelled to find a small way to help). There is something that happens when you are hungry.
When you are hungry, you become less picky. I once gave a homeless man a sandwich from the deli. He complained about what was on it and didn’t eat it, which tells me he was not hungry. Two days later, I gave another sandwich away and the person said thank you and took it quickly; that person was hungry. There may be more than one road that leads to where you are trying to go. Don’t be picky about the road; take the one that is open in front of you, even if it is a little bumpy.
Hunger drives you to get out of your comfort zone. Do you think it’s comfortable to hold a sign on the side of the road asking for food? I know — you have many opinions about this, as do I. But put all that aside for a moment and just think about how uncomfortable that must be for someone, especially the first time they do it. Hunger will take you out of your comfort and force you to do things to accomplish your goal.
Hunger forces you to ask for help. Chances are, if you or I skip lunch and get hungry, we know we will eat when we get home or stop somewhere later. We know where our next meal is coming from. When you don’t know that, you have to ask for help. When you don’t know how you are going to get to the next step, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Hunger forces you to be willing to change direction. I have had the opportunity to meet some homeless people in my community. Some have lived here a while, some are wanderers passing through. With these people there is usually deep shame, and they are not used to looking someone in the eye. I try to look them in the eye and ask them why they wander, what drives their direction. The most common answer is that they go where it’s easier to get food. Not all food banks and shelters are created equal. This is true as we try to navigate life. Not all directions will lead us to our goal; at times, we will be forced to change direction if a door closes. This does not mean quit, it means find another way. Hunger drives us to do this.
Hunger makes you more resourceful. When you are hungry and can’t afford food, you are willing to go to places you may not have thought of. You will look at ways to get food differently than those who just go to the grocery store and buy it. One person’s throwaway might become the treasure you need. Hunger brings a different perspective on need. There is a very specific goal in mind when you are hungry for something and when you are focused on that one thing — the red car syndrome kicks in and solutions come from places you might not have imagined.
To be honest, I do not like using this analogy. I honestly have a heart for homeless people and families who are food insecure and hungry. Forget the reason why — we are all a few bad decisions away from death or jail, so let’s try not to judge. The point is that hunger drives us. My goal in writing this is that you pay attention to hunger.
I want to encourage you, to dare you, to go a day without eating and drink only water, nothing else. No coffee, no juice — water only. (Of course if this is not medically possible please refrain or modify in a way to make it safer!) Start at sundown on one day, and then don’t eat anything until you see the sun rise for the second time. After sundown on your day of fasting, grab a pen and paper and start writing what comes to your mind about what is important in your life. Write it down, then leave it alone for a week. After your fast is over and you’ve got some blood back in your coffee system (that should take about a week) build a simple goals program around what you wrote down. In each of those important areas of your life that you defined in your hunger, write down at least one thing that you want to do in the coming year to make that area better.
That’s it! Let hunger drive you. Hunger will bring out what is important to you. Since this is a leadership blog about culture, you can then leverage this experience and share it with others and encourage those you influence to do the same. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste, take advantage of this and find out what is really important to you and what you need to be spending the most time on in 2017.