In the Nazi concentration camps, prisoners who survived have sometimes credited their strength over time to how thoroughly they chewed their food. They intentionally didn’t wolf down their meager rations, but rather masticated slowly until the food was more pulp than solid before they swallowed. In such a way, they were able to enhance their digestive processes and derive the most nutrients possible for their frail bodies.
When I’ve been hit by bouts of gnawing in my stomach that I don’t have the patience to calm with another sip from my mug of hot water, I scoop out a bit of my next day’s rice or lentil soup, and eat just a half cup or so, but CHEW IT VERY, VERY CAREFULLY. It’s amazing how much more refreshed I feel. I don’t think it has so much to do with helping my digestion as much as simply being incredibly mindful of the gift of food in my mouth.
The last time I have been this nourished in my spirit by food was during my observance of Ramadan last year. Yet, this little weekly experiment I’m doing with its sweet little moments of spiritual clarity is nothing like the experience of LIVING like this in a family year after year in a refugee camp…
To quote Fatima, the refugee I introduced on Day 1: “We make do with all we can, but we can only enjoy traditional Syrian dishes once every two or three weeks. As a mother it is so hard knowing I am not giving my sons the nutrition they need. It is very difficult feeling like I can’t provide for my family, but I always cook for them with all my love.”
Fatima loves cooking for her family, but she says it is very difficult to cook without the vegetables and spices she would use back home before the war began.
Today I am opening my can of sardines to begin adding the protein and calories and FLAVOR to my meals. I’ve never eaten sardines before, and they are incredibly unappealing in all their fishy oiliness and smell. But like Fatima, when circumstances require flexibility and change, we are given lots of opportunities to see the world with fresh eyes.
Our world today requires seeing with fresh eyes. For more information to nourish an understanding of what it means to be one of the millions of refugees in the world today*, feel free to check out the Church World Service link. I’m not formally listed in their program because the “official” challenge happened in June. But donations are still welcome, of course. https://cwsglobal.org/helping-vulnerable-people-rebuild-in-safety/
*World Refugee Day 2019. An unprecedented 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide, and 37,000 people are forced to flee their homes every day due to conflict or persecution. (Jun 20, 2019)