In which Ruth ponders fasting

Yeh right! Do I look like a woman who fasts? Ok, perhaps not but I always do on Good Friday. (More of that tomorrow.) At our Lent Group this week we pondered fasting. We are using the Christian Aid/SEC book ‘Lent FOOD’ and our first session considered Isaiah 58:1-12 on fasting and whether any of us had ever gone without food. Most of the group agreed that while they had fasted for medical tests etc they had never really experienced real hunger and couldn’t imagine what that would be like day after day, week after week. I do remember as a single parent waiting for benefits to come through and having no food. Of course this is nothing on the scale of those living in Syria at the moment, but for a well-fed Scottish woman it was a shock to the system. I had two very young children and I’d gone without to make sure they were fed and we had relied on the goodwill of my mum for food parcels but pride stopped me asking for more. I do remember daily visits to the DHSS only to be told that we’d have to wait until our claim was assessed but no emergency provisions would be made. After day 4 I left the buggy containing two wriggly children and walked to the door. “You feed them!” I said, “because I can’t.” I only got to the door before the crisis loan was made.

This week I had two very drunk men arrive on my doorstep begging for soup. “Please missus, please can we just have some soup?” For once I had none but I did make up a food parcel. “God bless you, missus, God bless you.” And then I was asked to bless one man’s rosary. It was wooden and sweaty around his neck, and he held it aloft like a talisman that would protect him from all ills. I prayed that it would.

Very few of the Lent Group had ever taken part in religious fasting (more of that tomorrow) but they did know that people are forced to fast because of poverty in our own country. More and more foodbanks are opening and it just seems crazy that in our wealthy country there are people starving. Of course some of them spend their money on booze and drugs but I for one don’t blame them. Who wouldn’t want to numb the feelings of hopelessness and depression?

May we never take for granted the food we have, nor tell ourselves that hunger is not our problem.

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