Hunger is as old as history, and is wrapped into our genes as the great impulse to survive. Everyone knows the boundary between hunger and satisfaction. However, for many of us in this country of abundance, it is difficult to imagine someone so hungry and weak they would cry or lose the desire to live.
This exhibition is about the experience of hunger. The stories are not intended to summarize or explain anyone’s life. There are too many ways a voice can turn. Many of the people I have met have struggled to find the right words to describe the weight of responsibility, loss, kindness and dignity.
Sometimes when I mention I’ve been working on a project on hunger, people look at me oddly and ask, “In what country”?
After spending 4 ½ years traveling around this country, listening, the reasons for hunger are not so simple: mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, severe physical injuries, old age, lack of education, job loss, mistakes, teenage pregnancy, health related illnesses, crime, sexual abuse, incarceration, chance, natural disasters, war, childhood neglect and generational poverty. Explanations and solutions are profoundly complex.
People die and no one remembers their stories. Everyone in this exhibit knows something important and valuable, a wisdom about their experience that only they know. The fifty individuals represented in “Hunger” are teachers – and we are students. Stories are places where empathy and understanding begin.
“Hunger” has immense short and long term implications, including malnutrition and starvation. Emotionally, it can impact every aspect of one’s identity, vitality, and psychological well-being. Many have described the experience as “blinding” and worse than they ever imagined.
What we are given, what is planted in the first fields in our lives can be deeply mysterious in its generosity or insufficiencies. The poor in our communities are often the least heard and the most forgotten. I have been profoundly inspired by each participant, as well as food banks, soup kitchens, charitable organizations, churches, individuals, volunteers, and so many leaders and helpers giving unselfishly.
I have felt with even a greater conviction that we all need to speak of the essential needs of our human family, and grow in our understanding of how difficult life is for so many in our country. These stories are about all of us as we live with our uncertainties and the realization that we too could experience hunger.
Listening is another way of seeing. It has been a privilege to have these passionate conversations. It has changed me. I tried to honor each story by being faithful to its spirit and the way it was spoken. Hunger is an issue of human rights. Everyone has the right to be heard, to be listened to, and to receive help when hungry.
HUNGER: A desire, strong wanting, craving, longing, lust, wishing, yearning, famine, pangs, starvation, voracity, insatiable, ravenous, complex sensation, discomfort, weakness, malnutrition, insecure, balanced anxiety, nutrient deficiencies and pain and suffering.