This is a syndicated post from Daily Meditations with Fr. Alfonse. [Read the original article...]
Memorial of St. Maximilian Kolbe, Priest and Martyr
(Click here for readings)
By HALEY HOYLE
Peter approached Jesus and asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”
How often must we forgive our brothers when they are so hungry and thirsty? Here is an entry from Haley’s journal.
Date: July 2, 2014
Location: Nkozi, Uganda (Nnindye, Lubanda A)
The Hunger and Thirst: I never grasped the severity of those words until I came to Africa.
Here, everyone is hungry. Everyone is thirsty.
Now, I don’t support “hand-outs” – just throwing cash at people to take away their pain. But food, food is a whole different story.
If I see someone who is so obviously hungry, and I happen to have food with me, it feels physically impossible not to give it away.
Towards the end of week three, when the hunger in their eyes really began to break me, I started bringing some of my food with me to my interviews in the village.
One day, we interviewed a few leaders from the SILC group (click “SILC group” for more info) in part of our village called Lubanda A. I brought a few snacks with me – 2 clif bars, some to-go cups of peanut butter, and trail mix. We arrived at Lubanda A around midday. The meeting was to take place in front of the SILC secretary’s home, right next to the banana garden this group was able to open up in just six months as a result of their success with SILC.
The 1st thing I always notice in each new community we visit are the children. The kids are always sure to greet me – the only muzungu (white person) they’ve seen in ages – with huge smiles and instant joy. Ask me about the kids from Kankobe Senero sometime. That, my friends, is real joy.
At Lubanda A, there was no such joy. The two children I sat with for two hours during our meeting did not smile once. Their faces were hardened, more hardened than any five or six-year-old’s face should ever be. Their clothes were torn. They looked as if they hadn’t eaten or bathed in weeks.
And as I journal here in the middle of this random banana garden on a random Wednesday in the middle of rural Uganda, I’m desperately searching for words to adequately describe the children of Lubanda A. I’ve started at this blank page for the past 20 minutes wondering where to begin, and I realize now that the only way to describe these children is lifeless, as lifeless and blank as this once-blank page.
When I looked into their eyes, I saw nothing but hunger. When I searched their hearts, I found nothing but thirst.
Aggie made me promise to pay attention during our SILC meeting and not be distracted by the kids like I always am, but I couldn’t help myself this time. I couldn’t ignore their hunger; I couldn’t look away from their pain.
Halfway through the meeting, I pulled out my snacks and instantly noticed a small flash of life in the children’s lifeless eyes.
I offered all of my food to the children, their mom and dad, and the other SILC leader present. Needless to say, by the end of that meeting, my lunch had vanished. Sure, I was hungry, but I knew they needed it much more than I did. And besides, the small flash of life I saw in their hungry eyes was enough to keep me satisfied for weeks and weeks to come.
So as much as I like to complain about only eating rice and beans for every single meal for two months (sorry peeps back home for always asking you to ship me cheeseburgers and pizza), I know that the hunger and thirst I experience most nights here will never even come close to what these people experience on a daily basis.
After living in Uganda for almost two months now, I’ve come to one conclusion: if you have food and drink on the table, a roof over your head, and a family who actually cares about you, you have very little to complain about in this life.
I can already sense how frustrating it will be to be back in America in just three short weeks – a land full of many people who have too much and love too little (myself being one of those people).
Here, love actually means something, and family, friendship, and faith are the greatest joys one has in life. I could write for days and days about the way Ugandans view these three “joys,” but all I’ll say is this: the people I’ve met here so far get life. They just get it, plain and simple. They take relationships seriously. If they say you are their friend, they mean it. They don’t gossip about you behind closed doors or make fun of you or tear you down in anyway. Instead, they hold you and feed you when you’re sick (thank you my beautiful twin Kush), make your bed and fold your clothes when you’re busy at work (thank you my sweet roomie Aggie), pray with you when you’re sad (thank you both of you), and laugh with you till the sun goes down (thank you my Princess Emily).
They never even dream of breaking their promises. If they say they’ll never leave you, they won’t. If they promise they’ll never betray you in any way, they would never dare. If they claim they love you, trust me, they mean it.
Yet the greatest thing about them is that they don’t have to say anything at all. You just know. Their actions tell you the whole story; the way they treat you on a daily basis says more than words could ever say. “[They] say it best when they say nothing at all.”
So maybe they are physically hungry and thirsty. Maybe some of them are living in extreme poverty. But to me, some of the richest people in the world are more spiritually and emotionally impoverished than these people will ever be.
Every time I think I’m experiencing true hunger, I’ll think back to the children of Lubanda A…their hardened faces, their torn clothes, their lifeless eyes, their bones bulging out of their backs.
Every time I think I’m thirsty, I’ll think of the little ones in my village who rise while it is still dark and walk miles and miles to fetch water for their families. And then return home and spend yet another hungry day at school, without any sort of complaint or negativity whatsoever.
As long as I live, I’ll remember the hunger and thirst in their eyes. But as long as I live, I’ll also remember that their lives – full of real laughter, endless peace, and selfless love*** – are more emotionally rich than ours may ever be.
Glory to You, oh Lord, for bodies that are always hungry, but hearts that are forever satisfied in You.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
Love you for reading.
And we love you for blogging!!
Haley is a full-time student at the University of Notre Dame and a part-time blogger. You can find her at The Hunger and Thirst.
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