Last week my husband and I were suffering from cabin fever after a few rainy days, and we decided to get out of the house and grab some coffee and a good book somewhere. Wheeling into the parking lot of Barnes and Noble, we noticed a family of three walking toward their car.
They had just come out of the all-you-can-eat buffet in the strip mall, two parents and a son who looked about eight years old, and all of them a doctor would diagnose with obesity.
So sad, Zach and I said to each other. I wondered what kind of future that child would have, would he be teased? Would he feel like he wouldn’t amount to anything? And what about the parents? What is it they are trying to escape through food? Do they eat here all the time? Do they care that their kid is severely overweight and inheriting their own unhealthiness?
All sorts of disapproving and critical thoughts ran through my head. And then I walked into the bookstore café and bought a $4 espresso drink.
“Are you sure you don’t want a venti, it’s only 60 cents more?” The barista lobbied, as they are trained to do with every customer. I declined. “Do you want a pastry or a sandwich to go with that?” No thanks. They definitely know how to capitalize on the classic impulse buy.
It was only after I was catered to at the coffee bar that I realized I was choosing the same gluttony I had just condemned. I didn’t need an espresso drink topped with whipped cream, I was just indulging. I was paying $4 for something that I knew was overpriced and nonessential.
This year I have been discovering a new way of eating, exploring where my food comes from, the ethics of my culinary choices, such as fair labor treatment and environmental responsibility, and trying to make better food choices in general. And while I am privileged American to be able to choose between pricey organic meat or canned green beans, not everyone has that privilege. Hunger is a real issue in the world just as much as obesity is, and both claim lives.
I’m not against caramel macchiatos, but I hope I don’t consume them ignorantly, as this last experience taught me. I hope I will realize the weight of my food choices, and if I’m going to exercise my privileges, I hope I will also donate to world hunger relief organizations, contribute to my church’s food pantry, and pray for and remember those who don’t have the same privileges God has so graciously given.