By AMANDA BEAM
Social advocacy is hard work. Just look at Gandhi forgoing food during his hunger strikes or Nelson Mandela serving 27 years in a South African prison.
Biography.com actually has a list of important activists through the ages: Elizabeth Caddy Stanton, Princess Diana, Aung San Suu Kyi and, yes, even Pamela Anderson.
OK, so maybe it’s not as difficult to be considered an activist as I first thought.
Regardless, I personally dove into the realm of social activism this week, a new thing for me. You will be relieved to hear that I kept on all my clothes, unlike dear Pamela in her PETA ads. Well, except for one instance, but that was really beyond my control as you’ll see later.
For a small-town girl, options are limited on how to change the world. While being arrested would afford me a little time away from the kids, which all mothers need, I don’t look good in orange. And we all know looking good is one of the key elements to great media coverage. Just ask any of the female Fox News anchors.
Hunger strikes for women can be too easily confused with eating disorders, so that’s obviously out.
Likewise, I’d hate to do a true demonstration. Back when I belonged to a certain political party, I did a counter-protest in front of at-the-time Gov. George W. Bush’s residence in Austin, Texas, during the 2000 election. As Young Republicans, we held signs that decried hanging chads and blamed the state of Florida for the whole debacle.
While the Texas Rangers were quite nice and some hot chocolate was provided, walking around a mansion in freezing rain wasn’t my cup of tea and certainly wasn’t a party. Our washable markers ran down the poster board, forming red and blue puddles underneath our canvas sneakers. The other real protesters wore boots or European-looking dress shoes as they sprayed us with the colored water. Lesson learned, men in olive Army coats. Lesson learned.
Surely there was some way to be an activist now. Low and behold, while contemplating how to form some fast dreads with honey so that I could join the Occupy Movement, a news story came across Twitter. Movie star Ben Affleck had decided to join the Live Below the Line campaign, an initiative that challenges people to eat off of $1.50 a day for five days to raise awareness and funds for those suffering impoverishment.
Throughout the world, more than 1.4 billion people live in extreme poverty, spending only $1.50 a day — not just on food, but on everything including meals, gas, housing, clothing and transportation.
That’s four times the population of the United States. And that figure has been translated into U.S. dollars with inflation taken in to account, so many live off less. Daily lattés can cost more than three days’ worth of living expenses for some of the world’s most impoverished people.
Try that as your new morning wake-me-up.
Now, I’ve seen some of Ben’s movies — OK, OK, all of Ben’s movies — and know about his personal life. Dating Jennifer Lopez and Gwyneth Paltrow alone should qualify him for sainthood, so who am I to doubt his commitment to a good social cause?
After reading up about the campaign at livebelowtheline.com, I decided to give it a go and signed up. You can pick which nonprofit you want to raise money for, so I chose CARE, a humanitarian organization that focuses on helping poor women and their families find economic opportunities through self-reliance.
Most people started their challenge this past Monday. I can’t lie. I began Friday so that it would be finished before Oaks. To wear heels, I need a few Mint Juleps in me. Then, when I fall, people think it’s due to the alcohol and not my own clumsiness.
Nonetheless, on Thursday night I bought all my food for the next five days. Mostly consisting of peanut butter, tomato soup, beans, rice and Ramen noodles, my total for the purchase came to $7.57, 7 cents over the limit.
Was it the healthiest? No. But cheap food isn’t always the best for you, a fact that compounds an already brutal predicament for those in poverty.
My first day, I only ate a dollar’s worth of Ramen noodles and peanut butter. While my tummy did rumble, I went to bed content knowing that I had made my goal. About 3 a.m. though, the growling turned to an itch. By morning, a nasty rash had covered my lower back and was spreading to my stomach. My belly puffed up as if I were indeed one of the hot air balloons that were destined to go overhead shortly. As I had to wear one of those terrible hospital gowns when I arrived at the Immediate Care Center, this is where the partial nudity came in. The nurse’s eyes may still be blinded by the whiteness.
While I had hoped for chicken pox just so I could feel young again, the doctor proclaimed that I had had a severe allergic reaction and gave me a steroid shot in the old keister. Looking back, it had to be the Ramen noodles — possibly the stupidest food in the world to which to be allergic. I grabbed a loaf of bread for a dollar to replace the rest of my stash and proceeded. Needless to say, I won’t count the prednisone I’m now on in the $1.50 a day total.
So here I am on my fourth day of the challenge and still going strong, albeit at times scratching a bit. If you’d like to donate funds to CARE so that my allergic reaction was not in vain, check out www.livebelowtheline.com/me/hoosiermandy. Even a buck can feed a person a meal, which in turn helps to change the world one full belly at a time.
No hunger strikes, imprisonment or too much nudity is even required.
— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org