The Choices We Make…

I have a couple of friends in the fitness business. It stands to reason then that I have little excuse for the shape I’m in. In fact, my shape bears little reflection on their attempts to encourage me to exercise. My excuse is always and for everything TIME. But I don’t want to talk about time today. I don’t have the time, to be exact.
Yesterday, my good friend and local fitness guru, Jen, and I were talking about our fast food nation and the choices we make regarding food. The word “gluttony” got tossed around a bit. In a previous blog, I spoke about how we’re food millionaires. The food is there, ripe for the picking, if you will. You may choose healthy, organic, all-natural, or you may choose deep-fried, breaded, full of sugar. But whatever you fancy, it is available, 24 hours in some cases. Our conversation focused mainly on the choices people make about their food. Will it be fresh, home-cooked, prepared with little salt and sugar? Or will it come in a paper wrapper? Our consensus was that, as a nation, we are making very poor decisions about our food. We want it “our way, right away,” and boy, don’t sugar, fat, grease, and animal by-products taste good! Interestingly enough, when I logged on to Facebook this morning I read a post from a sorority sister who was aghast that her son, attending a Chinese New Year party, was served Mountain Dew… in school. Wondering if she was overreacting in her horror, she asked other moms to weigh in. We agreed… soda has no place in school. We may choose to sugar our kids up at home, but really? In school? That poor teacher!
This got me thinking about something Ed and Wendy wrote in their journals after their trip to Africa in November. During their short visit to Chalabessa Mission Clinic in Zambia, they noticed an unusual sight. A couple of the benches in the makeshift waiting room were empty, a rarity in a place where people wait hours and hours for medical care because it is the only place to get medical help for miles around. The answer to this unusual sight is equally unusual. “…this is caterpillar season in this part of Zambia,” Ed writes. “This is right after the early, or short, rains. Caterpillars are abundant in the forest and they are an important source of protein for the local people. They virtually abandon their homes for a week to a month in search of caterpillars, living in the open and catching as many caterpillars as they can. They keep many to eat and sell sacks of the little guys at roadside stations where there is a very brisk trade in caterpillars. After squeezing the guts out of the little critters, they can be boiled or stewed fresh for immediate consumption as well as fried or dried for preservation and sale.”
Apart from the “fear factor” element of this for our tender tummies, there are a number of negatives to this practice. Because the caterpillar hunters are sleeping out in the open during the hunt, they often contract malaria. The season is short and the food supply so desperately needed that hunters can’t afford to take the time to get medical care when they do contract malaria or anything else out in the forest. Likely, both parents will leave the children in the family home alone while they hunt this important sustenance. This could be for days. Small children… alone.
Balancing these extremes is difficult. On the one hand, we’ve got a nation so richly blessed with the land and resources to produce food that in our abundance we jeopardize our very health. On the other hand, we’ve got a continent living on the brink of starvation, where caterpillar season is so crucial to existence that all else must be put aside. As I said to Uncle Lee a few weekends ago when he was visiting, “My puppy eats better than a large percentage of the world’s people.” I can’t begin to reconcile this. And I, quite frankly, don’t know what to do with it.
While I was typing this up, Matt came in with a mug of Earl Grey Compassion Tea for me. I am grateful for that cup of tea; how kind of him to brew enough for me too! But in the larger picture, I’m grateful for the work Compassion Tea, through the CareNow Foundation, is doing in Africa. I’m grateful that the monies earned by the sale of tea are going to stock the shelves of the Chalabessa clinic with malaria meds so when the hunters return at the end of caterpillar season something can be done to help them survive another day. And I’m grateful that I will stand up from the computer this morning and go to the cupboard and find the fixings for a healthy breakfast for me and my children.

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