Born in Guatemala in 1993, but adopted by a U.S. resident seven months later, the feeling of true hunger is foreign to me. I have been told that my birth mother did not have the means to raise a child, so she put me up for adoption – to allow for me a better life. I am unsure if I had other brothers or sisters, and if they survived, and I am unsure of the life my birth mother was able to live. What I do know is that Guatemala is a nation of extreme poverty and corruption, and at the time of my birth, the country was still split by civil war. Food was not something Guatemala hoarded.
When my mom came to see me for the first time in Guatemala, she stayed at an American hotel in the heart of Guatemala City. The adoption social worker who worked with her brought me to the hotel because the conditions of my birthplace, as she was told, were not fit for an American. But my mom was familiar with the villages of shacks, and the scrawny kids who inhabited the dirt roads, taking any food they could find.
Last Friday marked the first time I officially fasted for a specific cause. From sunrise to sundown only water went into my mouth. It was an 11 hour period, which does not seem long at all, but around noontime, I felt the churning in my stomach. Each hour after there was the growling pain, though minor and short-lived.
Giving up food for 11 hours was no marathon task, but not eating for more than an entire day could be. Or what if I fasted the same way for 11 days, drinking only modest amounts of dirty water, and ending the fast not with a light meal, but with a piece of food that may have little nutritional value? Here in the U.S. I have the luxury of surplus food, available whenever I want to eat. My kitchen cabinets are full of snacks, and the refrigerator and freezer are packed. There are three major grocery stores, twelve restaurants, and four fast-food eateries within three miles of my house. I live in a society where I can enter a store with the intent to buy pens and paper, and leave with a special edition bag of goodies to munch on because they looked good and cost only a pinch of coins.
I have always known that my current life is perfect when it comes to human necessities. I let people know that my mom is my hero because she literally saved me, and I am thankful for everything I have. However, this fast made me realize how valuable food truly is. Some cultures believe food is sacred; I throw items away on the day of their expiration date. Fasting has allowed me to treat food with a higher regard for those who do not have any food.
I am grateful for the opportunity Interfaith Allies gave me. It was incredible to fast with people who cherish the opportunity as much as I do, and then break the fast with a group of people from different backgrounds. Fasting is not something I grew up with, but I now have respect for those faiths that incorporate fasting into their religious practice.
–Michael Nicholson, Class of 2015