i went to Uganda almost two years ago. while i was there i learned that i can never justifiably say "i'm starving." because i looked into the eyes of children, who had just given me food, and who now had nothing to eat for lunch. and what i saw there, was acceptance. this was nothing new to them. they had skipped meals before. children who ate only a cheap grain cereal to last them throughout the day. mothers holding babies that were so malnourished that spindly limbs stuck out from a bloated stomach. their faces flash before me. . .
the rwandan muslim refugees, torn from their homes, with no work and no money.
the children of the slums, who did the work of an adult, because that's what is required.
the family of seven living in one small hut.
the elderly man who rode his rickety bike two hours each way to church, three or four times per week.
the villagers who had no electricity or running water.
the father, holding his infant son, who had just breathed his last belabored breath, in an overcrowded ward of a hospital.
the intern doctor trying valiantly to do everything she could to save a baby, caught in a house fire.
and yet, as i walked through the slums of Namatala, and as a rode a boda boda on my way to an orphanage, and as i taught school children how to become leaders, i saw more. smiles and laughter. loyalty and hope. love and compassion. selflessness and intelligence. people living their lives to the fullest, because they know that they only have one chance at life. i didn't see starvation. i saw something more. something that feeds the soul and not the body.
in the months that have followed my return from Uganda, i have observed my life and the lives of those around me.
we have plenty of food. yet we are constantly worried about being a certain size, or having the largest muscles, or eating the healthiest.
we are able to get an education. we go to wonderful institutes of learning.
we go to work everyday, and even if we hate it, at least we have a job that is steady.
we have a home that is warm and sheltered from the elements.
we have running water, warm showers, and electricity.
we can go buy new clothes.
we don't have to watch our children die from diseases like cholera and malaria.
we are safe.
but we are so unhappy! we are starving. yes, many of us are lacking vital nutrients for the soul-- compassion, selflessness, service, love, optimism, laughter. it doesn't matter how many likes we get on facebook, how large our paycheck, or how prestigious our degree. we deny ourselves of the essence of life- those things that change us from merely existing, to truly living!
i don't know how we can stop this starvation. there is no Red Cross to bring more love to the world. and there is no Food Bank that hands out cans of laughter. there is no state school that can teach us to be compassionate and selfless.
it starts with me. it starts with you. we must change ourselves. we must take stock, and change our hearts. laugh more. turn off the smart phone and play with children. help someone who needs it. smile at a stranger. hug our family.
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world" Ghandi.