Of Eating 'Below the Line' and Learning.
Wow - what a week. Trying to eat what I could afford for TT$10/day has been an eye-opening and humbling experience. I initially saw the website livebelowtheline.com posted in a photography forum looking for photos of what poverty looked like to you - a friend suggested I join because I have a few photos. So I took a look, and saw that there was a challenge beginning May 16th - 20th where people were to eat no more than what US$1.50, or the equivalent - TT$10.00, could buy. Since I've recently become involved in a programme that feeds the homeless, I decided it would be a challenge I would try, approaching it as an exercise in an awareness of how much the money could do - rather than spend it on 'x', I would stop and think that I would have to spend it on 'y' in order to eat and it would make me more aware that while in the ordinary course of life, that is not a life and death decision for me to make, it would actually be one for many people, who not only make those choices for themselves, but for their children. I hoped it would give me a better understanding of what the people I met and spoke to every day were going through.
I got so much more.
I expected I would feel hungry, but that has been manageable - no worse than if I'm just running on fumes for a couple days - but what I didn't expect was the feeling of total isolation I would get when faced with situations where people were eating or snacking, or in places selling food/snacks, or even seeing road signs for various eateries and not having the option of partaking in any of it. It's very demoralising.
I CHOSE to do this for only 5 days and it's been extremely difficult for me - the lack of options I have to eat, the lethargy and extra effort it's taking me to be positive, and having to constantly account for money 'spent' on food. What do people who have no choice and not only have to budget for food, but also health-care, school, transport, living costs DO? It's become very clear to me how a cycle of poverty could just continue, beginning with very little to eat, because it affects your ability to function - yes, you will continue to survive, but existing and thriving are very different.
There's a lot I take for granted - one of the cooks in the feeding programme told me she feeds 100 people her soup for the cost of a manicure. - It cost her $140TT to make a soup that people send messages about how much they loved it back to her about, so it wasn't even to say it was lacking in ingredients. I started doing this for myself, to make myself think more and appreciate more - I'm not fooling myself into thinking I'm going to eradicate poverty or hunger, but I don't think trying to appreciate what someone is going through would be doing me or others any harm either.
It's great to be in the Top 5 for fundraisers globally, but the top 10 thing is purely monetary, and that was never my motivation for doing this - I really just wanted to put myself in the other person's shoes, if even for a little while. Even if me and my team never made any money, I think we've changed our perspective, reached some people and at least made them start to think, or question their own spending, or assumptions, so for me, a monetary reflection isn't accurate as a success marker, because if we never raised a cent, I think we've done what we set out to do, if only for ourselves...
And at the end of the day, it's about making your own journey to where you're going in your own way - be it through pulling other people down or trying to raise them up or just trying to see and understand their point of view, and now more than ever, I think it's a sin that in this super wealthy world we live in, there could be people wanting proper nutrition...