THE HUNGER OF AFFLUENCE
Bert and Sharon were absolutely starving as they stood in line at their favorite all-you-can-eat buffet. Bert, who was planning to really put on the feedbag tonight, had cleverly remembered to loosen his belt a few notches out in the truck before they came in. They had both taken all of their pills to prepare them for the feast they were about to indulge in. However, tonight they were not going to worry about cholesterol, blood sugar or acid reflux, they were just going to pack it in until they were stuffed. They both took the all-you-can-eat phrase very seriously, and they planned to make this establishment lose money on them tonight. Bert was already wishing he hadn’t had such a large lunch so he could put away more at dinner, but he would still do his best to make sure he got his money’s worth.
Sharon was using her walker this evening because the extra weight her doctor had been trying to get her to drop was making her knees ache, but she would worry about those stubborn pounds some other time. Right now all she could think about was that dessert bar with all those sinful choices. Bert, on the other hand, was a man who lived for meat. The more animal flesh he could consume the happier he was. If the price he paid for that joy was clogged arteries and a possible heart attack so be it – they were risks he was willing to take – in order to enjoy a thick juicy steak. Sharon also skipped the healthy food and when straight for the gravies and sauces. There was something so satisfying about their creamy texture and salty flavor. When you stood in front of a big buffet like this you couldn’t help but think that life was good!
Bert and Sharon spent almost an hour shoveling in every morsel of food they could possibly hold. Finally the last dessert was crammed in and the feeding frenzy was over. After a minute or two of labored breathing and belching they immediately began to complain about how miserable they felt. Bert knew he would have to head straight for the antacid when he got home, and Sharon would have to prop up her swollen feet due to all the sodium she had been consuming, but, even though they were uncomfortable now, that would quickly be forgotten and the of cycle of over consumption would continue next week when they went out for either Chinese or Mexican. The debate about the next feast would rage all week-long until one person finally gave in to the other. Bert was as hard-headed as a jackass and Sharon was a drama queen that always had to have her own way, but at least they had their love of food in common.
Later that night Bert woke up with his usual heartburn. He took his prescription medication and some baking soda, but, although in pain and feeling bloated from the buffet a few hours before, he just couldn’t resist the last piece of cherry pie in the fridge. He plopped down in his favorite chair and attacked the sweet dessert. The sugary rush made him forget about his acid reflux momentarily and he savored the tartness of the fruit. He sat for a few moments in heavenly bliss until he heard Sharon getting out of bed. He knew she would soon be yelling at him for getting crumbs in the chair but he didn’t care. The pie was delicious, he just wished he had some vanilla ice cream to put on it, but – hey – life is filled with disappointments and a person just has to accept the fact that sometimes you have to make sacrifices and do without.
THE HUNGER OF POVERTY
The heat was over powering as the dust swirled around little Abasi. At the age of 3 his short life had been an unending chain of misery, but now his suffering was almost complete. The starvation that racked his fragile body was slowly shutting down his vital organs. His young mother, Halima, sat in the dirt rocking him gently in her arms as she softly wept. She too was ravaged by the effects of hunger but although weak and lethargic she couldn’t bear to let go of her young son. This would be the second child she had lost to poverty. Her little girl had died 18 months earlier from pneumonia and now she instinctively knew she was saying goodbye to her precious son. Another small gust of wind blew dust into her eyes, and she felt the grime as it stuck to the sweat covering their bodies.
Halima stared down through her tears at the small child in her arms. The realization that everything she had hoped and dreamed for her son would never occur made her feel sick to her stomach. He would never have the chance to get an education. He would never learn a skill or a trade. He would never have a family of his own. He would never have the chance to become the man she knew in her heart he could be. From the time he was born her son had seemed different. He was intelligent and active. He learned everything quickly and seemed to never struggle with new challenges. His cheerful disposition had been noticed by everyone else in the village. Many had remarked that even at such a tender age Abasi seemed destined to be an important person.
Unfortunately for Halima, their existence had been a constant life and death struggle. 12 months ago the drought had become so severe that crops had been lost at an irreplaceable rate. Famine soon followed and the starvation began to take its horrible toll. The downward spiral accelerated throughout her community as the need for food became overwhelming and the relief efforts could not keep up. The children were the hardest hit. Their immune systems became weaker and they could not fight off a host of illnesses and diseases. The daily sight of small graves being dug had chilled Halima to the bone. The very thought of having to place another child in the ground made her wake up crying in the night…but now, incredibly, that day had come. She hugged Abasi closer to her. She could feel his shallow breathing and she knew the end was near.
Almost an hour went by and then Halima suddenly felt Abasi’s body begin to tense up. Her mind recoiled in horror when she felt his chest contract as his lungs fought for air. There was a brief spasm and a muted gurgling sound and then silence. His eyes became fixed as they stared out at nothing and in that instant the life left his body. Halima screamed and clutched her son as tightly as she could. She began to shake as she sobbed the way she had seen countless other mothers do over the last few months. She cried out in her native language to her God and she shrieked at those walking silently past her, but her God did not respond and neither did those passing by. The villagers had seen this happen so many times that a defensive numbness had set in. It was a way for them to distance themselves from the constant pain and torment of the unrelenting death that surrounded them.
Halima knew they would soon be coming to take her beautiful child away so they could lower him into the ground and shovel dirt in his face. The very thought of it made her want to die. What was the point of going on without her children? What was her reason for living? There seemed to be no point to her existence. The dead child she held tightly in her arms had been her whole life. Now they were separated forever. Without realizing it her sobbing slowly gave way to singing. She rocked back and forth and softly sang Abasi’s favorite song. The words had always made him smile, so she sang it over and over again although she knew he could no longer hear it. After a while the wind calmed down and the dust finally settled but Halima did not notice. As she stared intensely at the face of her son she felt a pain that she was certain she could not endure. Her mind began to slip away from grief and exhaustion when suddenly she was shaken back to her brutal reality by the sight of two men walking towards her with shovels in their hands…It was time.