COLUMN: Jessica Iron Joseph — AUg. 24, 2012

Jessica
Jessica Iron Joseph
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I have decided there are no such things as coincidences, only purposes. The following illustrations, taken from my life, support my hypothesis.

I was forlorn after losing a $35 ticket, only for a complete stranger to randomly hand my husband $30 in gratitude as payment for a good deed later that day. The missing ticket was replaced the next day, problem solved.

I ordered a delicious meal at a quaint restaurant, only to find my appetite had curiously disappeared several bites in. Moments after we left the restaurant, I crossed a hungry, homeless man in the streets who gratefully accepted the proffered meal, and probably needed the nourishment far more than me.

I travelled to the East Coast and as I stopped in Ontario, my long-lost brother contacted me, only hours before I was scheduled to pass through his city. We finally met after wondering about each other for more than 30 years.

Each of those moments could be logically labelled a “coincidence” — mere happenstances owed to nothing more than peculiar timing. Or they could be what I consider “evidence” of the universe’s magical plan. Naturally I believe the universe to be the resultant conception of a divine Creator. Viewed as a complete entity, my strange moments seem to prove that the universe is listening, and often guiding us, depending on how receptive we are. My latest experience only cements my belief in the preternatural workings that surround us.

Last week my husband decided he wanted to try fasting for one day, since he read that occasionally abstaining from food kick-starts the metabolism while simultaneously giving the organs a break. I’m not sure if all medical practitioners would recommend it, but he insisted he would drink water, and refrain from doing anything too strenuous, so I supported him. I tried to avoid eating around him, and made foods that were odour-free, so as not to tempt him. He seemed quite cheerful and energetic and as the day progressed my admiration for his tenacity grew.

At the end of the day, I was so amazed that I considered trying it once again for myself.

I have tried fasting numerous times before, like many holy people who have undergone fasts; some for one day, and others for longer. I’d never completed one day because I can be weak, and a wimp, and 24 hours always seems so painfully long. In the light of my hunger, food always seems so much more savoury and delectable. I have always succumbed to temptation before supper.

This time though, I was determined to complete at least 24 hours. I knew it would be hard. It always has been. I picked Sunday, not just for its holy significance, but also because it worked nicely into my schedule.

I decided beforehand that I would only drink water, but I would also have one large coffee too. Maybe slightly cheating, but it was the only way I could convince myself to do it.

I also decided I needed a little more focus if I were to succeed in my goal. I needed a driving motivation. My purpose couldn’t be to kick-start my metabolism, or cleanse my body, because that has never before worked for me. I needed something more.

I intended to use the experience as a lesson in compassion.

I wanted to feel hunger the way starving people do, people who constantly go without, people from far poorer nations. I’ll admit my one-day fast may seem paltry in comparison. I’ve been fortunate to never know that kind of hunger, but having a sheltered life can also be debilitating.

Ultimately I hoped my hunger would help me remember those who have less than me, those who could use my sympathy and benefit from my empathy.

There are definitely poor Aboriginal people throughout Canada: some on the streets, and some on reserves. Some live in Third World conditions, right under our noses.

But there are also poor white people, and minorities too, starving across Canada. Then, of course, there are people in actual Third World countries suffering an inhumane poverty I couldn’t even fathom if I tried.

My one-day fast would therefore be my pledge to understanding hunger and using my experience to propel me to action by; donating money and food to food banks locally and/or world-wide, volunteering at food banks, and offering food whenever it is needed.

I do practise all these things already, but I’m not always consistent and I desired to use my experience as a reminder of the compassion I require on a daily basis.

Sunday morning arrived, and I felt that I should keep busy with all the little tasks I normally avoid, as a means of distraction. My first stop was at a store to pick up items I’d been neglecting for some time.

I took a moment outside the store to coach myself to ignore all the pre-packaged ready-to-eat foods. As I took my first step in, I decided I would think of Mother Teresa, one of my idols. Mother Teresa lived to feed the poor, which I considered a felicitous comfort in my situation. I decided I would think of her all day long, whenever I felt temptation lurking near.

Just as I was leaving the store, Mother Teresa’s face shone down at me from a magazine rack. It was uncanny. I picked up the magazine, astonished. Time had just released a special edition dedicated to her courageous and inspiring life.

Mother Teresa was with me all day on my fast. Any time I felt weak, I opened the magazine and read about her love for the world. By the end of the day, I wasn’t hungry at all. I was full of love and compassion.

It was no coincidence that I stumbled across Mother Teresa’s beautiful face that Sunday. I felt her spirit with me all day, and I was incredibly moved and honoured to feel her presence as I struggled to be just a little bit like her.

Organizations: Third World

Geographic location: East Coast, Ontario, Canada

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