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Hunger Awareness Week 2020: Day 3 – Aarik Williams

Hello, friends!

So yesterday (Wednesday) was Day 3 of the 0-0-1 Hunger Challenge (dinner only), and it was surprisingly not much demanding from a physical standpoint. It appears my body is adjusting to its reality that it is only being fed once daily.

I spent the morning going through some items that I am needing to purge, and it wasn’t so much physically demanding as mentally/emotionally demanding as there was a lot of decision making involved. I did hit a wall after an hour or so of earnest effort, and I’m certain that working with limited energy played at least somewhat of a role in that.

By the time I got to the pantry in the early afternoon, I had braced myself to jump back into my reporting work that is needing to get wrapped up, and I did some. (For those of you who may not know, my professional background is in Data Analytics, so this is actually an area of strength of mine.) However, what I was much more sensitive to today was the fact that I was working on something demanding without much encouragement by virtue of the fact that I was the only one in the building.

It’s funny, in the first few months of our pantry opening (we began in early May), we had volunteers present throughout the week helping us prepare for each upcoming Saturday. My focus was much heavier on equipping volunteers to help us with our processes, and frankly to get to know them and ask how I could pray for them given my gratitude for their critical contributions to our weekly preparation.

As the weeks progressed, our processes improved and I had more projects hitting my plate that required my specific focus. My attitude toward having volunteers present throughout the week began souring as I didn’t want the distraction from my ability to do my own work. Well, just a few short weeks later, I am noticing that I am having fewer and fewer “distractions” during the week, but I am experiencing a loneliness I haven’t had to this point and am struggling somewhat with focus and motivation.

While I have long pegged myself as someone who would not thrive in a regular work-from-home arrangement, I am seeing even more clearly that I simply wouldn’t operate well working alone in any environment, regardless of the physical location, home or otherwise. And as this may not be the most earth-shattering revelation, when I think about my attitude over the social state of our society over the past four months, there was a much more painful conviction there.

You see, life wasn’t exactly going the best for me at the time of the coronavirus bullying its way on to the scene back in March. I had been working part-time and enjoying myself with that work, but I knew it was only a stopgap for a period. Despite an interview at Salesforce back in February that I had crushed, the reward was radio silence for a role I would’ve been perfect for.

My Pa (Grandpa) passed away in early March due to COVID before we knew to call it that; we only knew that he was taken from us very suddenly and didn’t know why. It was particularly hard for me as he and I were really building some momentum in our relationship, and I was enjoying both spending the time and getting to know him more.

My faith journey had been largely put on pause for a few months following my reading of Matthew, Mark and Luke in December and January, as I was tired of Jesus telling me that all the knowledge I had gained from reading the Old Testament in 2019 was insufficient for living my life in a way that was pleasing to God. As if I needed any reminder considering my divorce was official in February.

But you know, in mid-March I picked my Bible back up and started reading the book of John, and Jesus became more encouraging again. I recommitted to memorizing Bible verses again, something I had really poured into from Oct-Jan which was so good for me. I took a flyer on some work through an app called TaskRabbit, and I not only started making better money, but was getting exercise doing yardwork for people and was able to re-engage in listening to the Bema Discipleship podcast, something that really ministers to my soul as I love its academic approach to understanding the Bible more fully.

By the time Easter rolled around in mid-April, it was clear that God had done enough work in my heart that I was able to receive Jesus’s death on the cross as the ultimate expression of love, not a reminder of everything I had done wrong to put him there. And it was only the following week that I started working at our Drive-Thru Missional Food Pantry, being surrounded by people who are truly committed to their faith and regularly witnessing God showing up in some very clear and powerful ways in order to make our operation possible.

So wouldn’t you know it, my life actually got better in pretty short order following the arrival of COVID on to the scene. And I quickly became tacitly smug about the fact that my life as a Christian was getting better while those of other Christians were worsening, attributing it to my study of God’s Word and my openness to His lessons for me. If only they had been interested in pursuing transformation instead of just going to church. If only they had been doing the hard work as a Christian like me.

But as of late, despite my continued learning and countless positive experiences with God these last few months, life has become harder. It is clear I am entering a season of transition, and I don’t know where life will be leading in some important ways. There are some things I’ve known I would eventually need to tend to that are starting to come home to roost. And so much of that confidence I’ve built up in “my being a good Christian” has been humbled in short order, as I have quickly been forced to realize not just how little control I truly have over my own life, but also how temperamental and resentful I become over that fact. Not exactly the mark of a “good Christian”.

And on that note, I looked at a picture we recently hung on the wall here at the pantry in a much different way yesterday. It is a picture that I’ve seen for years in attending Faith Hope & Love events, but one I never paid this much attention to. The fact that the people in that picture are actual people. The fact that the people in that picture were in need of help. And the fact that the people in the picture would’ve never been helped if they had to depend on a “good Christian” like me to start up a program like Faith Hope & Love has, training churches to launch their own food pantries across the city of Indianapolis as a means of meeting the real needs of their communities.

When I drove home last night, looking forward to a meal that I knew would be plentiful and satisfying, there was a homeless man asking for help at a stoplight along the way. While I gave him the only food I had in my car, a granola bar, for which he was sincerely thankful, I realized that this gesture, something I used to pat myself on the back for a few months ago, wasn’t really helping this man that much.

Rest assured, I’ve been making it a point to eat a salad and a fruit salad regularly this week, knowing that I was only going to have one meal. You’d better believe I was going to make it count. But this man doesn’t have that luxury. He is at the mercy of whatever others were willing to spare to him yesterday. And probably today. And probably tomorrow. Unlike me. Who is just doing this challenge as an exercise in discipline and awareness, and am ultimately not suffering but am really just whining.

So that was Day 3. Not much physically demanding but certainly spiritually convicting. I’ll be sure to share Day 4 tomorrow morning as you’d better believe the hits have kept on coming!

Aarik WilliamsHunger Awareness Week 2020: Day 3 – Aarik Williams