The Toughest Trial

March 24, 2008
By Sam Zehms, Eau Claire, WI

Seeing the title, you are probably thinking of some physical challenge, pushing myself to some limit: running a distance, lifting a huge amount of weight, or solving a brain-bending puzzle. It turns out my challenge was what millions face ­almost every day: starvation.

Was I lost in the woods, trapped, or just plain crazy? I guess you could regard me as a few marbles short of a bagful for doing it. Are you thinking I had a death wish? I doubt you are thinking of the right reason: I wanted to help others.

Now I bet you are confused. How could I help ­others by starving myself? To get an idea of how ­people in Africa are suffering, every year my youth group holds The 30-Hour Famine – we don’t eat for 30 hours. Sponsors donate money that we send to people in Africa. We are allowed to drink water and juice, although some people in Africa who really are starving may go more than 30 hours without liquids.

We began at my church in the early evening and played games to learn how some Africans are suffering from famine and disease. We had fun while learning about death. What an oxymoron.

Hunger didn’t claw at my stomach until I got home the next morning. The intoxicating aroma of pancakes filled my nose. I still had energy enough to play board games with my sister, but midway through Monopoly, my energy was sapped like water in a sponge. I staggered to the couch.

Has water ever been the only thing to enter your stomach for 12 hours? Let me tell you, it starts getting old after six. Liquids may fill you for a while, but the relief is short. Add the constant feeling of having to go to the bathroom, and I was pretty miserable. I read for a good portion of the day, which helped keep my mind off the gnawing in my stomach. But by midafternoon, my head was aching; it became torture to read. I needed something to pass the time that involved no brainpower. Suddenly, television seemed perfect.

After watching “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,” that became tiring too. At that point, all I could do was sleep. When I awoke, hunger constricted my stomach in a grip of iron. Even climbing the stairs seemed as difficult a task as moving a truck. I brought three pieces of bread with me so when the 30 hours were up, I would have a snack to help me get downstairs to feast. Time passed very slowly. Though I only had four hours to go, it seemed an eternity. Somehow, despite the hunger gnawing at my stomach, exhaustion was victorious, and I fell asleep.

Amazingly, I woke up two minutes before I was ­allowed to eat. I watched the clock with such intensity you might think I was attempting to blow it up with my mind. What should I eat first? People go through this torture all the time? I wondered. Pondering these questions and many others, I glanced at the time. I had waited a minute longer than necessary! Immediately locating the bread slices, I shoveled them into my mouth, oblivious to warnings not to eat too much after fasting. The taste was hard to describe. Imagine everything good you have ever eaten mixed with heaven.

Filled with energy, I raced downstairs. I chugged milk and inhaled microwave pizza. When the hunger pains had almost subsided, I nuked two Hot Pockets. Figuring that I should last ­until my real breakfast, I headed back to bed.

What is the point of this story? The next time you eat, remember how lucky you are. Remember how blessed you are to live in this country. Think of how many things you take for granted that other people have to walk all day to get, like a warm meal and a glass of water. I hope I have convinced you to take ­action against hunger. The less fortunate in the world need our help.

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This article has 2 comments.

893201501 said...
on Feb. 14 2010 at 5:06 pm
893201501, Calgary, Other
0 articles 0 photos 29 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." ~ Dr. Seuss

I've done the 30-Hour Famine... but I've also suffered with a sort of eating disorder for two years now. Try not eating for 24 hours or so EVERY DAY. No food from dinner to dinner. And you can say - I inflict this on myself. Well, yeah. I just wanted to say that. It's what I thought while reading your article. Not any criticism at all - very well written :)

SarynJumail said...
on Jan. 1 2009 at 4:39 am

Buddy, you're strong for that one!

I fast sometimes, for religious purposes, though, and the hardest one so far has been on a day when I had a swim meet...

try not eating for nine hours, then swimming 500 yards! Not fun, I had an extreme headache and I felt like I wanted to throw up.

But I've never fasted for more than 15 hours, and you did double that.

Good job!


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