My Begging Bowl

photoReflecting on how food and hunger are approached in different cultures,
through asking the question: 

What Do I Need in My Begging Bowl?

Is it frivolous to think first of a fresh flower?  A golden glowing dahlia or a creamy calla lily? If not a fresh piece of beauty each day, I beg, a rich purple glaze on the inside of my vessel, streaks of midnight blues and blood reds running through it. Color. Beauty. It feeds me. 

What do I need in my daily bowl? It seems that food is the obvious main answer. Is it not that which sustains us, or not, each day?  If I was begging would I have a choice of what food goes in my bowl? Would what I know about my body’s needs and allergies be relevant? Would I eat the piece of bread when offered, knowing the hunger pains are worse than the stiff joints, low energy, and intestinal trauma that the gluten will bring?

Would I beg for rice and meat, fresh vegetables and fruit?

If I was a monk, living from a begging bowl, I think I’d do better in India than here in this country of material wealth.  India where I picture the small dwellings, side by side with their red mud walls. Doors that are used to being knocked on, a culture where the alms bowl are filled.

In my story, they would share a bit from what they had, rice, veggies, a bite of meat on a good day, a piece of fresh fruit from the tree in the yard.

I could live on these offerings.

I begin to feel hollow when I imagine taking my bowl through the suburban streets of Anytown, USA.  Walking up driveways, past garages, to ring doorbells. Doorbells rarely answered due to all family members scattered across town in office buildings and Little League fields. Doorbells with their electric “ding-dong” calling one to the door, with a confused look, who is this orange-sheet-clad woman, standing at the door with a ceramic bowl?

When confusion moved to compassion, “Oh, she is asking for food,” the response trying to be giving, but impractical: a can of creamed corn and a jar of tomato sauce.

One house empty and the next.  The next yelled at, and the next only a barking dog.

The family through the dining room window, it’s dinnertime. You see the empty pizza box peeking through the kitchen counter.

What do I need in my bowl? I need simple rice, a bit of meat, fresh vegetables from the nearby garden. A calla lily, present to the beauty of the moment and those brilliant streaks of red and blue and purple running over and pooling inside.

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