Living Social Justice

A blog about responding to poverty and injustice, everyday and in all sorts of ways

Have you heard of lutling?

Probably not, but if you’re intrigued, read on. Christine Martin van Wyk explains her experience of ‘lutling’ and why she and her husband are going to do it again.

Christine and her husband Simon took part in the three-day Live Under The Line challenge

Christine and her husband Simon took part in the three-day Live Under The Line challenge

lutl·ing [lah-ti-ling]

verb 1. the act of a person or thing that eats food to the value of ZAR10 or less per day with the express purpose of identifying with the 13 million people in South Africa who live below the poverty line. Usage: “Would you like a granola bar?” “A granola bar is R7.50 and I’m lutling. That’s three quarters of my daily allowance.’’

Did you ‘lutl’ last week?

Congratulations are not necessarily in order, for the simple reason that living under the line for three days is not really a triumph. I spent a large proportion of my three days dreaming about my meal at midnight on Wednesday. My hunger pangs mingled with the uncomfortable reality that the 13 million people who live under the line every day of the year, and who I was trying to empathize with, didn’t have that meal to look forward to.

A self-confessed foodie, I am far from bashful in declaring that food brings me a lot of joy. I love everything about it. I love buying food, I love baking wedding cakes. I love putting a meal down on the table and I especially love watching people bond over food. I spend the better part of Sunday planning a weekly menu for my husband and I. Ask my friends, ask my family. Ask my Weigh-less coach. I love food.

To give you a good idea of our Live Under The Line (LUTL) experience, I’m going to be interspersing this post with Tweets  from by husband’s Twitter account during the challenge. Here’s the first one:

“Tonight I ate an ungodly amount of pasta to try make up for the next 3 days. It’s all the fun of carbo loading but without the race. #lutl” ‏@simonstreep

The usual preparation went into lutling this year (third year running): the tears, the denial, the bargaining. The soya mince. And yet God had new things for me to learn.

Small things:

Packets are an unnecessary expense. As my husband and I clocked in an early shop at Checkers, with calculator in hand, we forgot to factor in the price of a plastic shopping bag, never mind the eco-friendly brown paper ones I usually use. We carried our instant noodles, tomatoes and bread in our arms. That was a first.

“Wife and I heading to Checkers for our #lutl shopping. Holding thumbs for some unrealistic specials. Whole chicken for R2.99? Can only hope.” ‏@simonstreep

When you have little, it means a lot. As we packed our boot with the groceries, I worried about the eggs. I mean, I usually give them a second thought, but never before have I actually been concerned for their well-being. But when those six medium non-free range eggs represent three breakfasts for two people, I worried.

Carelessness is a luxury. I cooked some butternut soup in advance and I left it out over night, because the pot was hot. It wasn’t ready for the fridge, and I often do this. But this time of all times, the milk I added (for the creaminess that is normally provided by my unaffordable yogurt) must have soured. My final LUTL dinner was a slice of bread with margarine and some sweet potatoes that a friend spared for me.

“Wife just phoned to say our butternut soup has fermented. But I had already finished a bowl. #fail #supper #lutl” ‏@simonstreep

My husband really does need me. That is all.

“I might need lessons in frying eggs again… #eggfail #breakfast #lutl” ‏@simonstreep


“I spoke too soon. Tomorrow, my wife shall be on frying duty… #breakfast #fail #lutl” @simonstreep


“My wife fried my egg this morning, hence why it actually ended up resembling an egg. #breakfast #win #lutl” ‏@simonstreep


Big things:

Assuming others needs is dangerous. On Mondays, our church meets to pray. In light of LUTL, we had a few representatives from some of our Common Good partner organisations share with us the ways we could partner with them in prayer. I was struck by the common thread in their requests. They need people. They asked us to pray for people – for more volunteers to join their ranks and for existing volunteers who are working under challenging circumstances. An example, they asked us to pray for the teachers at a school where funding for a feeding programme has been lost. These teachers now have to choose seven children from their class of 45 who will receive a meal.

This really struck me.

My assumption has always been that organisations are under-funded, and while they certainly are, the request was for people to join their ranks. People are needed, our TIME is needed.

Moreover, giving financially to these organisations doesn’t exempt us from giving our time to them. Nor does giving our time let us off the hook of giving of our finances to organisations that are in need.

Being in need makes us vulnerable. Vulnerable to cold weather. Vulnerable to sin. It’s easy to be ungracious, impatient and downright grumpy when we’re hungry, when we’ve shared our slice of bread with a ‘starving’ spouse. It doesn’t excuse us for rudeness, or excuse genuine malice, but it explains and contextualizes the genuine struggle that a quarter of our country experiences.

When we see faces that look genuinely surly or disgruntled, we can be aware that it may be rooted in genuine vulnerability. Not hunger. Not a headache that cannot be medicated. Vulnerability. And our grace goes a long way for these faces and people.

God gives us more (grace). James 4:6. We are not above new lessons from our Heavenly Father. Having lived under the line twice before, I wondered what I would have to write about. Now I’m struggling to keep quiet. Just as a piece of scripture on different days will speak to us in varied ways, the same experience can yield brand new fruit. Fresh grace and tears for those who experience this struggle everyday of every month.

I’ll be lutling next year. Prepare yourself in advance, @simonstreep.

– Christine is the coordinator for the Common Ground Rondebosch AM congregation and embarked on the LUTL challenge with her husband, musician and writer, Simon van Wyk, who provided a running commentary of the LUTL challenge via his Twitter account.

So how did you find lutling this year?

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  1. Pingback: 13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice | Living Social Justice

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