A couple of Sundays ago, the Discovery children took part in a hunger simulation prior to attending the Hunger Walk in Atlanta…what an experience! Our youth have made it a tradition to take part in this yearly ritual on the eve of the Hunger Walk each year and I couldn’t help but wonder if the younger children of our church would “get it”…so, we gave it a go…
As the kids entered the room, there were three dining areas set up…the first was a table with white linen tablecloth, china, silverware and glassware all set with a candle. This table represented First World countries.
The next table was bare except for a stack of paper plates, plastic cups and a pitcher of water, representing Second World countries and the last dining area was nothing but a blanket on the floor. The blanket, of-course, represented Third World countries.
The kids entered the room and drew a 1, 2 or 3 out of a hat as they were told to go to their designated area and do whatever felt natural. Table One was served waffles, grits, cinnamon rolls, chicken fingers, fruit and orange juice…they were served at the table and given butter and syrup, there were only three people assigned to this table. Table Two was given fruit, grits and a cinnamon roll…they were to serve their own plates and given water. Table Three was given one bowl of grits, 3 spoons to share and 1 pitcher of water…the majority of our children were assigned to this “table”.
It was interesting to watch their reactions…Table One felt special…privileged. They felt as though they had been “lucky” to draw a number one from the hat. As time passed, they admitted that they felt a little un-comfortable, even guilty as they witnessed their classmates eyeing their waffles and complaining with “that’s not fair” comments. Table One ate quietly. Table Two seemed un-affected…one child commented that “we’re not as rich as that table but we are not as poor as those on the blanket…just right in the middle!” They wondered why they didn’t get waffles but said they were ok. Table Three did not quite know what to do…they just stared at the plate of food for a while, no one ate. They said that they were unsure about sharing a spoon and that their plate just did not look that appetizing…many didn’t like grits so they just didn’t eat. One child commented that she wasn’t hungry. Hmmm…
After this continued for a few minutes, I interrupted to make an announcement…I said, “Attention, please! First World, there is plenty of food in the kitchen and you are entitled to all that you want and you have the means to travel. That’s all.” Those at Table One just looked at each other for a while…the teachers and I wondered what they would do and were tempted to probe them. Finally, one went and quickly placed a plate on the floor at Table Three…many hands tore apart the waffle and chicken fingers. Those who were aggressive and fast got the food. The females and younger ones were still left empty handed. Eventually, all of the children from Table One got up to ask Table Three what they wanted and to fix plates for them. Table Two was handed a few items as well.
At the end, we all fixed plates and talked about how it felt to be in our countries…it was so interesting as we reflected on the comments that were made about what it would look like to be aware of conditions that differ from ours around the world. We asked questions such as, “Which country did you feel like you belonged to in your group?”, “What were your feelings about the people in other groups?”, “Did any problems arise in your group and how were they resolved?” As always, I think our lesson was just as eye opening for the teachers as it was for the children!