LBTL – rich girl, poor girl – day 4: scraping by

It’s day 4 of live below the line and for poor girl especially, energy levels are low. Her food is unappetising and hunger is felt as headaches, slow mental processing, dizzy spells and weariness. None of these things make her want to eat, but she scrapes every last morsel anyway. Why? Because food has become fuel. 

daily bread

Poor girl doesn’t have the right food to give her the nutrients she needs – hence the headaches – but every last mouthful she eats is keeping the symptoms manageable.

When every forkful makes a difference, what’s in front of you is suddenly incredibly precious. Unappetising or not, ‘hungry’ or not, you know you need it to meet deadlines. You even need it to help form your feelings into words for a blog.

And so she has learned to adapt. She doesn’t look forward to meals anymore, but calculates the most effective time to have them on the basis of energy lapses and peaks during the day.

By day 3 this process has been perfected – the food is working as hard as it can for her. Instead of having three meals a day, she’s switched to four – dividing the evening meal in two and eating one earlier than usual and one later.

That’s the way the food has the greatest effect. That’s the way she can keep scraping by. That’s the way she can keep working.

Not wasting the slightest thing has been a constant theme for poor girl this week. Because when you don’t have enough, losing some of it, or making a miscalculation and running out of something too early, suddenly matters a lot more.

‘Even when I was preparing to live below the line at the weekend this dynamic had already begun. I made my makeshift dal on Sunday afternoon but I didn’t have much at all to flavour it with.

‘When you just have one chilli and 4 cloves of garlic to flavour 10 meal’s worth of split-pea based gunk, it’s amazing how disappointed you feel to discover 1 clove is rotten and unuseable.

‘When I opened my pack of split-peas I imagined what it would be like if I pulled the bag too hard and spilled them everywhere. I think I would have got down on my hands and knees and picked up every last one.

‘Certainly I did scrape out the colander completely after they were rinsed. This is amost all my protein so I didn’t want to miss out on any of it. And every time I’ve cooked rice, every solitary grain has been scraped out and eaten.

‘As ever in my life, pretty much the most crucial thing to me in terms of consumption this week has been tea. So I’ve been constantly concerned that my one pint of milk will run out early as black tea on an empty stomach – especially first thing in the morning – can make you retch.

‘I had enough tea bags to meet even my endless desire for a cuppa, but not enough milk. So I’ve been alternating with hot water with a squeeze of jiffy lemon, and making the tea with less milk in a bigger mug so I get the sense of having more.

‘I can be a bit clumsy pouring things – my mind’s normally full of words whizzing around and I tend to be a bit visually absent sometimes. So I often spill milk when I’m making tea. Not this week though. I’ve been eeking out a meagre amount into the bottom of the cup and doing it super carefully so none of it is wasted.

‘My little pint has come backwards and forwards from home to the Sanctuary each day and is clearly labelled as mine. My worst fear personally has been that someone would use it by mistake. People come in to the Sanctuary through the day and many of our regulars help themselves to their teas and coffees. What if they used my milk by accident? Even though there were massive 4 pinters available for them…

‘Makes you think hey? So much of the time rich countries do have a massive amount but the way we run the world means we’re stealing from those with pretty much nothing. Trade rules. Tax evasion. Debt relief with strings attached. Consumer practices that don’t question their supply chain…

‘I have just one surplus item this week. My pack of pitta breads (which I’ve been having one of for breakfast each day) has six not five. I’ve speculated what to do with this precious bonus- when to have my extra portion of the nicest, most satisfying part of my diet this week.

‘In the end it’s simply sat there – like a sort of insurance policy if I’m desperate.

If I make it through to Friday night without having to eat it, I shall have it with my last portion of dal and rice. It will be a far cry from how I normally feast at the end of a busy and tiring week, but I think I’ll enjoy even this tiny glimpse of surplus.

‘I share these mundane details from my week because of one thing – the appalling contrast between what I usually have and what others don’t.

‘There’s enough food in the world for everyone if we share it. And yet we don’t. 1 in 8 people go to bed hungry each night in our world. If you’ve not already signed up for the IF campaign – please, please do.

‘But that doesn’t mean 7 in 8 live like I do. People who live like I do – even though I have significantly reduced my living standards because most of my work is voluntary – are the privileged minority.

‘The way we live is not normal. helps you calculate – with purchasing power adjusted –  where you are in this crazy unjust world of rich and poor… you might be surprised where you fall given the fact that someone living on £10,000 net income per year is still well within the top 9% of the world.

‘There’s a scandalous contrast in how much each of God’s seven billion children have today. And there’s a resulting contrast in how much each of us values what we have.

‘In January we reflected on a report that estimated we throw almost half of our food away

It was shocking then. This week, as I scrape every last morsel of energy I can out of my not-enough, it’s unthinkable.’

Rich girl might be enjoying a better diet this week, but she’s no stranger to food being fuel. Last year when she did live below the line she found it incredibly hard physically. Because she suffers from migranes and one of the main triggers for these is low blood sugar. She had two that week. Total knock outs.

So this year it was an easy decision who should be rich and who should be poor in our little experiment. But that hasn’t been easy for rich girl:

‘I’ve felt isolated this week. At one level I have been participating, and doing live below the line in our rich girl, poor girl style has been newly challenging because of the disparity.

‘BUT I’ve also felt excluded – the main reason for me not taking part is because I’m not strong enough.

‘And then I think… what’s it like for people who have illnesses or frailties – even relatively minor ones like mine – who are in living on less than £1 a day for real? How do they scrape by?

‘I’m even more thankful than ever that I’m able to manage my food intake. I’m even more determined than ever to work for others to have that necessity.

‘I don’t believe it’s God’s will for anyone to just scrape by, let alone to not even manage to scrape by. Especially when it’s all down to the injustice of how our world works. And when it means that others have so much more than they need.

God wants good things for us. All of us.

A prayer for food distribution

Lord you taught us to pray ‘give us today our daily bread’.
Enough said.
You understand what we need;
You designed us to run on this fuel –
And you made it a delight we can enjoy, not just a chore.
Lord, are we any angrier than you are today
When we look at these statistics next to our unequal plates?
There is enough food for everyone
But the scales are so imbalanced and our hearts so indifferent
That there are cupboards of surplus; skips full of waste;
Just-enough and not-enough rations; and empty plates.
You see them all – and we do too when we’re willing to remember.
Please don’t let us forget that others need daily bread
And help us share and pray and speak out until they have it.
Because we do not believe inequality is your design.
And we do believe that we can bring enough to everyone
If we lay down our sense of entitlement;
If we follow the narrow way of transformative love.

Comments are closed.