Feast and famine

The Covington News - - Local news -

This is the sea­son of feast­ing — and it shows. Ac­cord­ing to a study in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine, most Amer­i­cans gain be­tween one and five pounds from Thanks­giv­ing to New Years Day. This may not sound too bad, but ac­cord­ing to the study, the hol­i­day weight gain stays with us, ac­cu­mu­lat­ing over the years, so the ex­tra weight we carry re­ally is last year’s t u r k e y, fruit­cake, divin­ity and fudge. Duane Alexan­der, M.D., said, “Th­ese find­ings sug­gest that de­vel­op­ing ways to avoid hol­i­day weight gain may be ex­tremely im­por­tant for pre­vent­ing obe­sity and the dis­eases as­so­ci­ated with it.”

On the other ex­treme, there are nearly a bil­lion peo­ple around the world without enough food to eat this Christ­mas. On Dec. 9, the UN Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion is­sued a state­ment say­ing that there were 40 mil­lion more peo­ple suf­fer­ing from hunger this year than there were last year. This is like say­ing that all the peo­ple in Florida, Ge­or­gia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Ten­nessee were now go­ing to have to sur­vive on one meal a day, or less, in­def­i­nitely, and this is just the 2008 in­crease in world hunger. Ac­cord­ing to the UN, the to­tal num­ber of those un­der­nour­ished world­wide is now 963 mil­lion peo­ple. Nearly one out of ev­ery seven peo­ple on the planet is un­der­nour­ished. Ac­cord­ing to the Global Hunger In­dex, the coun­tries with the most un­der­nour­ished peo­ple are all in Africa: The Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Eritrea, Bu­rundi, Niger, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ethiopia.

There is a way to both help curb our sea­sonal weight gain and at the same time do some­thing to for the hun­gry. We can fast for a day — that is, go without eat­ing for three meals this hol­i­day sea­son — and then we give the money that we would have spent on food to an agency that helps with world hunger.

A short fast could be a wel­comed rest for our stom­achs, and it could also help us spir­i­tu­ally as well — in­creas­ing our sym­pa­thy for those who reg­u­larly go hun­gry. (This may be part of the rea­son why our Lord taught fast­ing, both in word and ex­am­ple — see Matthew chap­ters 4 and 6).

We could all miss three meals, es­pe­cially if you stretch this out over sev­eral days, but where do we send the money that was saved? How does a per­son iden­tify hon­est, ef­fi­cient, and ac­tu­al­ly­help­ing-peo­ple char­i­ties? There is a very use­ful Web page called “Char­ity Nav­i­ga­tor, Your Guide to In­tel­li­gent Giv­ing” found at char­i­ty­nav­i­ga­tor.org. It rates char­i­ties on their ef­fi­ciency and ef­fec­tive­ness, giv­ing four stars to the best char­i­ties. You can look up a par­tic­u­lar char­ity, or look up a need and find a char­ity. (If you do not have the In­ter­net, the pub­lic li­brary in Cov­ing­ton does and the li­brar­i­ans would be happy to show you how it works, or you can call the Char­ity Nav­i­ga­tor at (201) 818-1288.)

An­other way to find the right char­ity is to ask your church leaders. Most likely your church is al­ready in­volved in an ef­fort to feed the hun­gry. For ex­am­ple, the United Methodist Com­mit­tee Re­lief sup­ports min­istries in more than 80 coun­tries around the world, in­clud­ing all of the hard­est suf­fer­ing coun­tries named above. UMCOR is also a rated a four-star char­ity by Char­ity Nav­i­ga­tor. To find more in­for­ma­tion about UMCOR’s min­istries to help feed the hun­gry, go to www. umcor.org.

This is the sea­son of self-in­dul­gence, but we can dare to be dif­fer­ent, to be coun­ter­cul­tural. Fast, and give the sav­ings away, and when you sing of the sav­ior come to “bring peace on earth and good will to­ward men,” you can say, “I’m help­ing with this too.”

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