"When you are lost in the forest, stand still," says wise teachers in some native cultures, "because the forest is not lost." If you stand still the forest will help you. You will be led out of it. This seems to be a very good word to heed in the midst of the times that we find ourselves living today.
There are many things that contribute to creating our sense of lostness. The one that is on my mind most these days is poverty. As I drive from place to place in Atlanta and observe my sisters and brothers who have no place to live preparing their beds in card board boxes and underneath freeway over passes, I am overwhelmed.
A few days ago I listened very carefully to a Bill Moyers show on the issue of hunger in America and learned that more than 50 million people in our country have what is nicely called " food insecurity" which really means that they do not have enough money to provide adequate food for themselves and their children. Of course there is the other side of that coin which is equally distressing in terms of our problems with obesity and food waste. Along with all of this is the additional fact of our elected officials in Congress who dare to think that saving money by cutting food stamps is a great way to solve some of the many economic problems that face us. It is rather difficult to imagine what corner of consciousness they inhabit which allows them to reach such conclusions.
The forest is deep and dark and it is easy to miss the glimmer of light rays. Since it is so easy to miss the light, it is very easy to become immobilized by rage and fear. Clearly there is no reason, not a single defensible reason, that there should be a homeless person or a person without enough food in this country. We have enough resources to take care of ourselves. But we have allowed our greed and our prejudices to stand between us and the work of making sure that everyone has food and shelter.
I know more than I wish that I knew about scarcity and it is very frightening to think about not having the ability to provide shelter and food for yourself and those that you love. Though I have not been homeless and I have not missed too many meals due to lack of food, my family was quite poor and we had times when there was no food in the house. The fear that comes with this type of history can lead to many things and one of the ones that it led to for me was the tendency to over eat thus creating my perennial weight management problems.
Therefore, as I stand still in the face of the horror of poverty in my city and throughout this country, I am committed to continuing to work to have a more normal weight. Over the years I have lost many pounds and regained some of them, though in the past few years I have kept off more than forty pounds I am still continuing to work on losing more weight. But, far more important than the weight loss is my intention to create a new relationship to food. My scarcity issues make me want to fill the pantry and the refrigerator, but my desire to be in solidarity with my homeless and hungry sisters and brothers make me realize that I need to live in a different way.
As I have stood still in the midst of my thoughts and feelings about the forest of poverty, I realize that I want to buy less and less instead of more and more. Of course if I buy less, I will tend to eat less. My refrigerator only contains the bare necessities as does my pantry. It was somewhat daunting in the beginning. But I am resting better in the awareness that I live five minutes from three major grocery stores and that I can go there to get whatever I really need. My refrigerator does not have to be full to capacity at all times. But I don't go to the store much because I am committed to living with less and learning new ways to use what is already in the house. I am choosing to live with less though I don't have to do it. Unfortunately, I cannot really know what it is like to be totally without because I have resources that prevent me from being homeless or hungry. But I can stand still and be in solidarity with those who have no resources and that resolve can help me to see the next step that I can take toward making life better for those who are suffering.
The forests of poverty, militarism, racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism call us to immobilization, but if we "stand still" and listen to our hearts and use our heads better, we can catch a glimpse of the light that shines above their density and we can find our way out.