Saturday, March 6, 2010

Food For Thought - an article on the 30-Hour Famine

This is a longer post today, but I hope you find it thought-provoking in some way.

About a month ago, I participated in the 30-Hour Famine at our church (30-Hour Famine post).  It was a stomach-growling, soul-wrenching event where we took some time to serve others, experience some short-term hunger pangs and learn how many people in our world are starving.  Depressing? Yes...but if you are fortunate enough to be reading this right now, I am guessing that you own a computer, have a roof over your head, have an endless supply of clean drinking water and that you never wonder where your next meal is coming from.  These simple things make us wealthy, compared to about half the people on the planet. 

At the risk of looking like an overly proud parent, I wanted to share an article that was written by my 14-year-old daughter about this event, for a school assignment. On this blog, she is known as BookGirl95 and these are her words.

Food for Thought
110 middle and high school kids. 30 leaders. 2 churches combined. 30 hours on an empty stomach. Does that sound fun to you? It did to me; it sounded like an adventure. I was anticipating a fun, life-changing, eye-opening, and amazing experience. I had other things I could do that weekend, but I went to my church and starved myself with some friends. My other friends thought I was insane, giving up a beautiful February weekend to do community service projects. Okay.  I signed up for the 30 Hour Famine anyway.

The whole point in doing the Famine was to raise awareness and funds for world hunger and malaria. We were mostly working for a village in Zambia, Africa, but we also did some things for homeless Tucson people. We went without eating to feel what it was like for people across the world.

The rule was that you had to stop eating by midnight on Friday. I finished dinner at 7:00 and didn’t eat again until breakfast on Sunday morning. I woke up on Saturday, and got ready to leave, skipping breakfast. I arrived at 8:00 a.m. at my church with my parents, who were both doing it as well. People slowly arrived and we played games for a while. We were put into “tribes”, groups with about 11 kids and 3 leaders each. We stayed in our tribes for the whole morning.

The first thing I did with my tribe was make sack lunches. We made 200 brown-bag lunches for homeless Tucson people. We filled each bag to the brim with sandwiches, Goldfish Crackers, water bottles, carrots, Oreos, and apples. They were simple meals, but looked pretty good to me, about 10 hours into my Famine. It took a whole lot of willpower for me to pack Goldfish into lunches for people I’d never meet. I was tempted to sneak one or two, but I didn’t. My stomach grumbled. 20 hours until breakfast.

When we finished packing our share of lunches, everyone in my tribe was handed a small Ziploc bag of hard candy.

“These are Random Acts of Kindness,” our leader LeAnn told us. “We’re going to Wal-Mart to buy as much food as we can with $1 each. Some people in third-world countries have to live on a dollar or less a day, and we’re going to see how hard that is to do here in the U.S. Once we’re done, our tribe will get points for how many servings of food we can buy. While we’re there, I want you each to give your bag of candy to a stranger.”

I never would have thought of doing anything like that, and I knew I’d have to step out of my small comfort zone to give a bag of candy to a stranger.

As we drove up to the Wal-Mart grocery store, I noticed that it wasn’t very busy for a Saturday morning. From the minute we jumped out of the van, everyone in my tribe was on the lookout for someone who might accept our candy bags. Some kids gave their Random Acts of Kindness to shoppers, people getting into their cars, the cashier, and others. My friend, Nicolle went to give hers to a couple of bikers on the way out. The bikers didn’t want it and wouldn’t accept it. I can sort of guess why. My tribe was made entirely of 8th and 9th graders. We must have looked like a rowdy group of kids, on a mission to confuse the rest of society. We weren’t trying to be weird; we tried to make a small brighten someone’s day.

We drove back to church, and our next activity was on a more serious note. We went to our next station, where we found a paper on the table. Our leader, Ronnie read it to us. It said that we were going to staple links of paper together, creating a chain. We learned that 2,000 kids in Africa die everyday of malaria. There were 2,000 strips of orange paper, symbolizing every child who had died that day of a mosquito bite. That would be like every student and teacher from my middle school dying each day... x 2.  As my tribe stapled the pieces of paper together, nobody said a word. There was no need for talking; the huge mountain of paper spoke loudly enough. 

We did other activities throughout the day, but one of my favorites was the puppet show. My church is pretty unique, in that we have a huge puppet ministry. The tribes dispersed and we were all signed up for other activities. I chose puppeteering with my friends Nicolle and Christina. We met new people who had also signed up for puppets, and together we learned from the Director of Puppet Ministries how to work the puppets. We had a script, a pre-recorded voice-over, professional puppets, and we were ready to go.

We took our traveling puppet show to three Giving Tree homes. My team hopped into a van as we set out to entertain the kids at the homes. I was so excited! Everyone in my van was bouncing off the walls, and we were all screaming and laughing. But the ones who probably had the best ride must have been the puppets. We each had one on our hand and were sticking them out the windows, making them wave to passing cars. I had Roobie the Rabbit on my arm and I made her wave out my window. We waved to a five-year-old girl in the backseat of her parents’ car. She pointed, laughed, and waved back. This was not nearly as awkward as giving out our Random Acts of Kindness candy bags. We waved at two little old ladies in a white convertible. They laughed so hard, and their smiles were the size of Tucson. Our destination was on the South side, and we drove past a tough-looking pair of men on the side of the road. Roobie the Rabbit waved at them as our van went through a green light, leaving both men doing a double-take.

We turned into the driveway of the first Giving Tree house, we were met with hugs and smiles.  Our first show went perfectly. All the little kids watched us, laughing, singing along with the songs, clapping, and smiling like crazy. Actually, all three of our shows went that way. It was a fun night.

After each of our shows, we took our puppets out from behind the curtain to meet the kids. I remember two kids in particular. One was the cutest five-year-old boy ever. He just had to meet all the puppets. I still had Roobie the Rabbit on my arm. That kid squeezed her so hard in a big hug. It felt like that blood pressure test that they do at the doctor’s. He hugged every puppet and his mom took lots of pictures of us on her phone. The 30 Hour Famine happens once a year, and the puppets participate every time. That may have been the coolest thing that kid did all year. I kept that in mind during the other puppet shows when I lost all feeling in my arm.

The other person I can clearly remember was a girl. I never learned her name. After one of our shows, all the kids had gone inside for dinner and we were packing up to move on to the next house. But this little girl had waited outside, and as I was taking Roobie off of my arm, she came up to me.

“I knew it,” she said flatly.

I was puzzled; what had she known? I asked.

“I knew it the whole time,” she replied.

“What did you know the whole time?” She was making me work too hard for this.

“I knew it was fake,” she told me. “I knew the puppets weren’t real the whole time.”

What do you say to that? You’re right, the puppets can’t really talk on their own, and that was my hand moving her mouth. No, it’s all real, I swear! Yeah, they’re totally pretend, but don’t tell the other kids.

Instead, I simply said, “You’re right. You’re a very smart girl.”

She seemed pleased and walked inside to get dinner. I don’t think she gave our conversation a second thought. I sure did. She seemed like she had wanted to prove herself, like I should be informed that she was not a little kid anymore. She knew what was real and what wasn’t. She must have been around my brother’s age, ten or eleven. My brother knows that puppets aren’t real, but he doesn’t point it out whenever he sees them. Any other kid her age would’ve played along with the puppet show. This girl lived in one of these group homes because she had nowhere else to go. Maybe she had previously been living on the street. I don’t know her story, but whatever it was, it was completely different from mine. She’s probably had to grow up faster than most kids. Maybe she’s never played pretend, and was thrown into the “grown-up” world too fast. The puppet show might have been a little reminder of all she had missed out on, and she wanted me to know that she was too big for things like that now. I wish I could have talked with her more. She really changed my perspective. Not everyone lives the care-free life I do.

When we had finished up our last puppet show, we headed back to the church. We spent the night there and woke up to the smell of breakfast cooking. What a beautiful smell... We had pancakes and eggs. It felt so good to have food in me again. It’s kind of one of those things that you don’t appreciate it until it’s gone.

When I finished my food, I went and stood outside of one of the four church services holding soup buckets for donations. We collected a lot of money, which all went towards buying bed nets (canopies) to prevent malaria in Africa. My friends also held soup buckets, and other kids held our orange paper chain that we had made the day before. I think that really hit home for some people, who put a little extra into our soup buckets. Between all four church services, we made $3,500.

If I went for 30 hours without eating and didn’t learn anything, what would be the point? But I learned a couple of things. Even though giving away Random Acts of Kindness can be awkward, it brightens people’s day. I learned about malaria and helped raise awareness and funds for it. I learned that puppets make everyone smile. I learned that it’s really difficult to go a full day with no food, and no one in the world should ever have to. In other words, the 30 Hour Famine was an amazing experience that I will never forget.


midlife_swimmer said...

Your daughter is cool! You should be proud.

RockStarTri said...


Everyone (that I know) who is a parent has doubts about their parenting ability from time to time. After all, there is no "official" program on how to be a parent, no licensing requirement, nor any sort of guide book that all subscribe to. They wonder if they are totally screwing up their kids lives due to their own parental incompetance or perhaps even waiting to see if they will catch them pulling wings off flies or something like that.

There are points in time, though, where a parent can get a sign, an indication, or something that let's them gain some insight into the mindset and personality of their child to see if they are on the right path. This experience that you shared with your daughter seems like one of those times and by all indications, you should be proud of her and by extension, proud of her parents (wink, wink).

So gloat away, Clyde, gloat. Make sure the Mrs. gloats too. You both deserve it but most of all, make sure your daughter realizes how special she really is. You probably do that already but you can't do that too much.

Thanks for sharing this.

guinnemick said...

What a great story. This just demonstrates what a good father you are and what great kids you have raised. I still say, my son should meet your daughter...jk....

Big Clyde said...

Thanks so much for the nice comments about our girl. My wife and I are very proud. Yet, I know we all do our best and hope that they make good choices. Here's hoping that my kids and yours make good choices along the way and that we can pick them up when they fall.

Big Clyde said...

...and GuinneMick, the answer is still "no". For now, NO ONE (even your awesome son) gets near my little girl.

Don't make me get medieval on your ___.

Jennifer said...

Wow! What a great young woman. I echo the sentiments here that you and your wife should be proud. This is really inspiring.

CactusFreek said...

She is a very insightful young lady! That was an awesome essay, and a good read.
Who do you partner with for the village in Zambia? What company?
Our church go through Compassion, with other churches, to support whole villages. Ours is in Resombe[SP?]. We have a bit to do with Watoto too.
Can you get your hands on the information about how you do the 30 hour famine thing? The activities etc?
With that lovely piece your daughter did, i'd like to present that info to our church leaders :o)

Big Clyde said...


WorldVision is the organization that created the 30-Hour Famine program. Our village that we are helping is Manyonga in Zambia, Africa. Here are some links that could help your church.

And Cactus, I am thinking of you and your family every day. From one parent to another, I admire your strength. May God bless you as you help your girl and the baby.


Zeusmeatball said...

I enjoyed reading your daughters account of her 30 hour famine. well written and I could totally get her experience from the words she used, BUT I had no clue puppets were fake! :( of course I am kidding ;) good post.

As Ever

Susietri said...

What an insightful kid, great essay and what a fantastic experience for her and the others. I really think that World Vision certainly excels in making development issues very basic and understandable.