Living Social Justice

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

Archive for the tag “hunger”

Hope In An Age Of Hunger

Are we conforming to a culture of comfort at the expense of those in need in our City? Roger Wood shares what he’s personally grappling with post-Live Under The Line.
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“So what happens now? Another suitcase in another hall…” These are the lyrics from the chorus of the song sung by Eva, in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, “Don’t cry for me Argentina”.  These words sprang into my mind, as we came to the end of another attempt at Living Under The Line.

At our first attempt three years ago, my wife and I just about managed to keep to the R60 budget but the second year we failed!  This year I’m afraid we modified our target restricting ourselves to a modest breakfast and evening meal only and reflecting on how others cope when they have to manage on this amount daily.  But is it really about surviving the three day target?  If we are thinking this way we’re missing the point.

Prior to Living Under The Line, I had been helping a local NGO evaluate bursary application forms.  One of the requirements was that the applicants must be from a rural area and one of the points to consider was financial need.  Many of the applicants stated that they were living with Grandmother, as their parents had died. In addition there were often a couple of aunts and uncles living in the house as well as the additional siblings.

Grandmother was able to get a state pension of R1260 and child support subsidy for two children. That amounts to a total income of R1860.  If you do the maths, that works out to R10 per person per day.  These stories brought home to me the reality faced daily by so many in our country.

At the same time I had been re-reading the book, “Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger”, written by Ron Sider back in 1978. For me, the challenge of Living Under The Line was more of an opportunity to examine our own lifestyle.  I began to recognise that my wife and I have adopted a lifestyle similar to those in our community. We spend our money on: our home, food, clothes, possessions, entertainment, cars and holidays.

We have a greater affinity with the affluent rather than with the downtrodden and the oppressed. We have accepted a middle-class culture and have ignored Jesus’ radical teaching with regards to money and possessions. We have not even chosen to live simply, so that others may simply live.

People with money can always buy food. Hunger affects only the poor and as they usually live a long way from where we live, we are not always aware of their need.  What a tragic picture! Affluent Christian communities amassing wealth while millions of people hover on the edge of starvation.

Ron Sider sums up the first chapter of his book with these words:

“But if the Christ of the Scripture is our Lord, then we will refuse to be squeezed into the mould of our affluent, sinful culture.  In an Age of Hunger, Christians of necessity must be radical nonconformists.  But nonconformity is painful.  Only if we are thoroughly grounded in the scriptural view of possessions, wealth and poverty will we be capable of living an obedient lifestyle.”

What do you think?

-Roger Wood is a retired educator presently working as a volunteer with Common Good.  He and his wife, Jane, are members of the Common Ground Constantiaberg AM congregation.

P.S. Did you know yesterday was World Food Day? Here are some other interesting reads: “Beyond The Hunger Pangs” and “13 Million Reasons To Do Social Justice”

Walking in someone else’s shoes

Murray, second from right, sharing a R5 Live Under the Line meal with friends at the Common Ground Cafe

Murray Armstrong shares his personal journey through the Live Under the Line Challenge.

When I first heard of the Live Under the Line Challenge, I was immediately interested. We’re doing a challenge! I’m a guy – I thrive on challenges. And I remember how quickly that enthusiasm shifted to indecision when I heard it would be challenging, or rather limiting, my typical daily intake of calories. The bar was set: three days of no more than R10 a day for food.

This challenge is a daily reality for over 13 million South Africans. By restricting our budget for food, we would attempt to identify with them and hopefully develop a genuine heart for changing their situation. My enthusiasm got the better of me, much to the dismay of my appetite. The challenge was on!

Sharing a bowl of mash and tomato relish with a couple friends on day one, our conversation shifted from how our oats breakfast tasted to more serious debate about fighting poverty in our beloved country. All of us being UCT students, we realized how easy it is to live in the bubble of campus life and be caught up in our own “student budget” struggles. I can’t say that we solved all our countries problems over that one meal, but there certainly was a change in our mindsets, a shift in momentum towards living a life that is more generous.

My personal journey in charitable living has been filled with ups and downs. Usually, when I have managed to be sincerely generous with my time or finances, I have always felt blessed in return and more motivated to fight injustice. Other times seeing the severity of poverty has left me feeling that my own efforts are either in vain or make little difference. My heart often shuffles between wanting to serve the needy and not wanting to, but feeling as though I ought to. The conflict between wanting to give, but not wanting to give up my precious resources is a constant struggle.

True motivation finds itself in Paul’s words in Ephesians 2:8: “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Realising that my salvation was freely given to me as a gift from God empowers and encourages me to help those in need whether they’re deserving or not. As Jesus instructed his disciples, the logical outworking of one who recognizes he has freely received, is to freely give. (Matthew 10:8)

Gathering on the final night of the challenge, our home group congregated eagerly in the kitchen. The guys looked on with beady eyes as the girls dished up their modest portions of chicken and rice. The ratio of chicken to rice was far lower than usual, but we awaited this meal with more pleasant anticipation than any previous dinners together. Needless to say all the plates were soon spotless and we cheerfully shared our experiences over the Live Under the Line Challenge. I remember one member humbly confessing how his appetite had got the better of him and lead him to devour a pack of biscuits after coming home from a tough day at work. I couldn’t shake the feeling that what we shared that night with one another was actually being shared with a larger audience. That night we shared a meal with 13 million other South Africans. We shared the struggle they have everyday.

Having spent three days in their shoes, we finished the challenge more grateful and humble than we started. We exited freshly encouraged to pray more earnestly and live more generously for the poor of our city. What a great idea! Let’s do it again!

– Murray is a qualified engineer and is currently serving on Common Ground’s Fuel Team

Video: Live Under the Line

Did you know that over 13 million South Africans live below the poverty line? This means that they’re relying on only R10, or less, to meet all their basic needs. That’s R10 for food, medicine, clothing, transport, and shelter. Kind of blows the mind, doesn’t it?

This July, we’re launching our annual Live Under the Line Challenge as a way of identifying with our neighbours who are living in poverty. Interested? Here’s how it works…

Visit www.commongood.org.za, to download recipes and prayer pointers for next week’s challenge.

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