As we prepared our hearts and minds for our trip to Uganda, each member of our team was challenged to fast for nearly 24 hours. This would be my first attempt at intentionally refraining from eating food for an extended period of time. I was skeptical. How would it feel? How might I grow from this experience, if at all? Nonetheless, I tried it. And I’m glad I did.
Here’s what I learned:
- I need to be even more grateful for access to food and abundance. My hunger was voluntary. But in many places of the world, hunger and limited access to food are involuntary experiences. To get a sense of what this means, consider the Global Food Security Index. Uganda, for example, ranks 81 out of the 113 countries in the study (http://bit.ly/2tZw5P5). That means that in terms of affordability, availability, and quality and safety, Uganda experiences daunting – but not insurmountable – challenges when it comes to food security. The United States in comparison – yes, you guessed it – ranks at the top of the index. My fast, albeit temporary, enabled me to empathize with others who experience the real challenge of food insecurity.
- I deepened my capacity for patience and self-control. This was the most important lesson for me. Consciously denying yourself something you depend on – something as fundamental as food – builds these important character traits. This fast shook me out of the slumber of my daily routine and focused my attention on the physical experience of hunger, while resisting the urge to eat.
If you haven’t tried to fast, I encourage you to try it out. Your experience may be different from mine. But I’m certain you’ll learn lessons that can improve your character and your experience with those around you.
By Ryan De Souza