A friend of mine posted a picture of a t shirt on Facebook yesterday that read: “I’m Sorry For What I Said When I Was Hungry.”
I recognize that the shirt’s message is intended as a joke, but underneath the joke is the, at least half-serious suggestion, that I ought to be excused for what I say when I haven’t been fed well. That others should understand that when our stomachs are growling, and we are distracted by our desire for food, we should be given some slack. It doesn’t express true sorrow, remorse or repentance, so much as offer an excuse for what we might say or do in the face of our hunger.
What makes it really a joke, in my mind, is that most of the people who would wear such a t-shirt or post a picture with its message are never really hungry the way people who can’t afford enough food are. By hungry we tend to mean, I didn’t get a chance to eat lunch so I’m feeling a bit peckish. Or, I’m dieting and so am a bit irritable because the yogurt or fruit I had for breakfast wore off a few hours ago. And so we exclaim, “I’m starving to death.” That is not the hunger of those who live in abject poverty.
The first thought that came to mind when I saw the picture of the t-shirt was: I wonder whether we would give the same slack to the poor. Do we forgive the homeless beggar on the corner who says something abrupt or rude to a passerby, recognizing his hunger means he is not at his best? You can substitute various versions of the question, but I fear they would all be answered the same.
And not in a way that is to our credit.
This thoughtful story is a good reminder for me. I’m fairly insulated from the very poor and hungry, and if I do see such, it is too easy for me to steel my face and keep on walking. Now, I will practice being more thoughtful and will at the very least say a prayer. However, some of the folks begging at traffic lights or freeway ramps still challenge me, sometimes irritate me. Are they authentic or frauds? Either way, I can surly say a prayer for them. Thank you for speaking out about the poor and hungry….
I agree. I appreciate this reflection. The t-shirt makes me laugh because I live with my husband and two sons. Often times they walk through the door exhausted, on edge and hungry. They recognize they are exhausted but hunger feeling is put on the back burner. They can get easily annoyed and difficult to work with in this state. Often times I remind my sons to eat and wait until my husband has eaten. Once they eat, moods lift and harmony is easier to achieve. I will remember this when I see disruptive behavior around me in public or hear it in the news. Perhaps the person is hungry or sick. I will give special allowance for the homeless and poor because surely they may be in either one or both of these states or worried about a love one that is hungry or sick. Thank you for your insight.