As Sue leaned over to give me a kiss before leaving for Master’s Swim this morning, she whispered, “Don’t go running. There are big storms coming.” I checked the Weather Channel app after she left and the entire face of the screen was covered with green and orange storm clouds. “Well,” she’s right about that I chuckled.
So I went downstairs to gather some laundry for a trip to the gym. But on the way down the stairs our cadre of four hungry cats had other ideas. So I dug into the cat food and found a few cans of the stuff that they haven’t really been eating lately. It was Salmon and Green Pea. No wonder they aren’t eating.
Turning up their noses
With no other options I dished the stuff into their bowls and you have never seen such an underwhelming reaction in your life. Cats who don’t want to eat what you’re serving are the kings and queens of disdain. They looked up at me with anger in their eyes. They were clearly “hangry” at me.
So I had pity on them. It was a combination guilt trip and ready excuse on a Monday morning not to work out. I dressed for the gym just in case. But on the way to the Woodman’s grocery store I started to do that mental calculus that goes like this:
workout + changing + breakfast + commute = get to work
and my brain shut down after the word “breakfast.”
Because I was one hungry cat. Those other hungry cats had made me think about ingesting food before I was ready to think about food. And I was getting hungrier by the minute. Then I walked through Woodman’s and spied a type of food that should not be a food and it got me thinking about how much food I eat that I should not be eating because it is full of sugar and other bad stuff and my stomach growled in response.
But it seems like junk food is about 60% of what our grocery shelves seems to carry. Junk food no one needs to eat. Giant rows of potato chips and Doritos. But we eat it anyway because in the moment, we’re hungry, or we’re stressed, or we’re bored. Or we’re stressed because we’re bored. So we eat. And feel stupid like Peeps without a purpose in life.
Sick to my stomach
Last summer my stomach growled a lot because I got an infection from a something that scratched my hand that turned into cellulitis that required antibiotics that killed all my good gut bacteria. That resulted in chronic nastiness with my insides and patent threats of diarrhea all the time. That required taking a bunch of probiotics and antibiotics––at the same time! to kill and overwhelm the bad bacteria caused by C-Diff in the gut. And in that condition, one learns quickly to distinguish between the growl of a hungry stomach and the growl of threatening bowel.
So there were memories of that challenge last summer as a new round of storms gathered in the western sky. I drove back from Woodman’s with a fresh round of cat food that I knew the kitties would like. It goes to show there are simply some things with which you cannot mess around. Appetites are real, yet hunger is hunger, and we left the food out long enough during the weekend to find that the cats barely ate. The food we provided was mixed with stuff they did like. It was salmon and green peas. So they went hungry. But finally they ate. Some.
It stinks to be hungry
It frankly stinks to be hungry, but it also stinks to be hungry and be faced with food that is clearly not appetizing. For all the bragging people once did about their military service, complaints around the quality of food that soldiers received used to be quite common. The same used to be said about hospital food, and even high school or college cafeteria food. But those have all been improved over time. There is more to appetite than raw hunger.
Granted, when Sue and I finished a 30+ mile ride after starting mid-morning, we were pretty darned hungry. By the time we stopped at Buffalo Wild Wings to pick up an order of promised food for the twenty-somethings that helped do mulch in the yard the previous day, we were close to being “hangry.” If you don’t get enough to eat, or in time, that hungry anger can kick in. When metabolism demands food, it has no patience. It wants food now.
Raw and difficult subject
Which is why hunger is such a raw and difficult subject for so many people to understand. Many millions of Americans only experience hunger between meals. But experiencing hunger when there is no food to eat is an entirely different order of challenge. It grinds at the soul. So if you’ve never visited the FeedingAmerica.org website, take a visit and learn a few things about how hunger affects so many people.
The term “food insecurity” has been adopted to describe people living in situations where they do not know where their next meal is coming from. In many states, schools have taken on the mantle of assuaging this need for children.
Acerbic commentators such as Rush Limbaugh have been known to deny the fact that hunger even exists in America. I heard him say this live, on-air, and was shocked to hear anyone make such a claim. That fundamental level of uninformed opinion is quite damaging to the understanding of real problems in America. It also demonstrates two things: a clear lack of factual information and an ideological predisposition to deny facts that run counter to what one wants to believe over what is really happening in the world.
Another term for it is cognitive dissonance: In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.
Such cognitive dissonance has led to practices such as lunch shaming the hungry. Such is the disrespect of humanity wrought by those emboldened by affirmation of their emboldened ignorance. Such behavior goes far back in moral and theological history to the idea that people who are poor or physically disabled are somehow “cursed” or ignored by God for their sins.
Religion is supposed to have progressed, yet the effects of arrogance, entitlements and selfish pride never disappear from society. So while it may seem silly to connect the hunger of our household cats or the hunger one feels after missing a meal due to a workout with the hunger of people in our communities and around the world, there is a cognitive connection. You can ask yourself: What would it feel like to be hungry all the time, or to have no access to food? How would that make me feel?
In our area of the country, the Northern Illinois Food Bank feeds tens of thousands of people each week. Many of those folks are neighbors who depend on such organizations to help them make food ends meet.
Yet hunger remains a shameful topic in the eyes of, and politicians have been busy cutting funding for food stamps and meals for the elderly. Some of these programs only require a couple hundred million dollars to feed the hungry of all ages. Yet our nation thinks nothing of hurtling $130M worth of Tomahawk missiles at an abandoned airfield to distract from the selfish behavior of its Egotist in Chief.
Hunger is real. Perhaps it is time we all slowed down and consider what it means. Stop being “hangry” in our athletic pursuits and start thinking about a few other people in this world. It’s been a year since I consistently gave to the food bank near me. Changing bank accounts disrupted that practice. But I’ve worked a few days stocking trucks and want to get back to giving regularly to feed the hungry in our communities.
It’s amazing what a few hungry cats can teach us about ourselves.