S2: Episode 24 - John B.

Episode Information

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Hunger and Resilience, narrative histories about the complexity and experiences of hunger. A traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by the San Antonio Food Bank, Eric Cooper, executive director. We are grateful for the honesty and eloquence of every voice. Episode 24, John B.

John B.: Well, um, I don’t know what to start, but I’m gonna start somewhere. Mental health is a state of being. I started hearing voices and hallucinating at a very young age. I attempted suicide once, but I failed. And I will see little demons like they, they were choking me, but I don’t know if it was a illusion or what. It seemed very real. And I got scared. And then it just disappeared. And people were laughing at me thinking that I was crazy. I regret going to prison because it caused me 10 years of my life in prison. They give respect to people that are rough. One way, you, you, you, you could look rough. Tough is making tattoos on your body. Uh, on my chest, I got a prehistoric dragon. The dragon, it, it, it throws out fire. It, it means something ferocious. One time I got into a very bad fight. It was a life and death situation. They locked me up in solitary confinement for 45 days. Being by yourself in the dark. You’re always in there and there’s nothing good that ever comes out of prison.

I spoke my first word when I was seven. I was just not saying a word. I couldn’t even if I tried to, nothing will come out. You know, I, I’ve cried, you know, because of my hunger, because of the hunger pains, you know, and there was nothing to eat. I, I, I, I will go to my mom and she said that there’s nothing, you know, there’s hardly nothing. You know, that, that I was gonna have to wait. Sometimes we would find fruit that was bad, but we will still eat it. Whenever I don’t have no food, I feel discontent. You feel sad and angry, you know, angry at the world, you know, for being like that.

When I was in my childhood, I’d be waiting at the door at the house and, and, and watching out through the screen. And when, when the social worker will arrive and in his car, I will run out and I will hug the social worker, and I will hug the bags of food and, and, and yell papa. papa. Because I was young, but I, I knew that it was food. To me, it was papa. And that’s all I knew because I knew that it was gonna relieve my hunger. At least for that moment. I wanna tell you a joke, which concerns food. Okay? It goes like this. What, what do cannibals call the United Nations? A a variety pack <laugh>. A variety pack <laugh>. Everybody’s so hungry. You know, even cannibal suffer hunger.

I asked myself a question. I asked myself, John, how do you want to be remembered? And I sat there and, and, and I thought about it. And I reflected on my life, my past, my present, and how my future will be. And I started to live my life for the better. I, I like helping the, the homeless community. I volunteer in churches that a minister to their needs, like food. I know how it feels. It feels terrible. Recently, I had a dream. I had a dream that I was in a feast and I was eating everything. And the food was good. I was eating to my heart’s content. I was eating fruit, vegetables and stuff like that, meats, and I was drinking then having to wake up with nothing. What minute I’m full and I’m having a blast. And the next minute hungry. I mean, I don’t know how to explain that. You know, I don’t.

[Outro Music]

Host: A voice has a power. There is so much misunderstanding, circling around the reasons and causes of hunger, explanations and solutions are profoundly complex. Food banks and other relief organizations, churches, food pantries, provide food and hope and connection and resources and opportunities. These narratives are about not forgetting and about our shared humanity. What does it feel like to be that person? We are grateful for John’s honesty and his passionate voice. You can go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for portraits and transcripts. Thank you so much for listening.