Holy Communion: the one meal where all are welcomed, all are fed and no one goes away hungry

The stomach flu was hell for me. Hell is not one of those words I use loosely or throw around in everyday conversation. The stomach flu provided very few moments of feeling a sense of aliveness or connectedness to any kind of life-giving source. What I did feel was a disturbing sense of helplessness, lack of control over my body and a kind of despair unlike any I had felt before.

I kid you not, there were moments when I thought and whispered to God with an “I’m just joking… I think” giggle, “Take me now Lord, take me NOW.” I just wanted it to end.

By day three I had forgotten what it felt like to be well and full, but I knew for the first time what it felt like to be extremely sick and unable to receive care that could make you well.  My community is full of some of the best doctors in Nashville and I am one of the fortunate ones in the city with healthcare, but there was absolutely NOTHING the doctors or my insurance card could do for me.  The BRAT diet did not even work, my stomach refused to hold applesauce… APPLESAUCE!

I also came to know for the first time real hunger an empty belly. Water and Gatorade just wasn’t doing it for me. It was not enough, and what could cure my hunger was not an option for me. My stomach refused to hold anything down and there was nothing I could do about it. Nothing.

It was hell.

One of the worst moments, the real Fred Sanford “You hear that Elizabeth. I am coming to join you, honey” moments, was the day Ciona came in with a grilled chicken salad from a local Mexican restaurant.  Oh my goodness, empty and craving stomach, I sat there and watched her eat. All I could do was sit there and watch her eat. I asked her for a bite, and she looked at me as if I had lost my mind. She knew what my body had been through and was going through, and she was not going to contribute to my pain.


Ciona left while I was taking a nap, and when I woke I saw her bowl on the counter with pieces of the tortilla left. Before I knew it I was going through her scraps and stuffing them quickly into my mouth, forgetting what this action would mean for me about twenty minutes later. My need was urgent, and starving while surrounded by plenty just drove me mad.

I was hungry.

I hunger like that no more. I am well. Thank goodness the stomach flu is a virus that does past, it does not last always.

However, when I think about the number of people in Nashville who go to sleep hungry every night I get hungry again. When I think about the stupid extreme poverty that exists within our Global community, where children in 2009 die of malnutrition and only receive one meal a day, I get hungry again. That week experience in hell and this profound sense of urgency comes back to me, and the only substance that can feed this craving is a new social and political imagination.

“World hunger is an anachronism of modern history — it is a (poor) indicator of our spiritual well-being that there are people starving and hungry in the 21st century.” Bono