The idea, in Ariel’s report that there are 23 million Americans going
hungry is in stark contrast with the news headlines sitting in front
of me warning, once again, of an obesity crisis in
as we rapidly catch up with our American cousins.
Doctors worry that our health service may be overwhelmed by an increase
in weight related diseases such as heart attacks and cancer.
They even reported on the death of one 3 year old child.
He was obese – and he died of heart failure.
An extreme case, but one that highlights a growing problem.
And it’s a problem that stretches way beyond Western Cultures.
I’ve been following events with particular interest in
recently. Both those
countries have been making immense strides forwards over the last
decade. We tend to hear
the bad news stories most often, but remember that in
the economy is booming, the ANC is receiving some credit even from the
white minority, more people have access to clean drinking water and
electricity and the adult literacy rate has leapt to 89 percent.
too we see a booming economy, especially in the IT sector.
Universities are turning out highly qualified graduates who are
finding good jobs both in their home country and abroad.
Yet in both these countries we also see a similar challenge to
or to countries like
The divide between the rich and the poor seems to be growing.
And a country with fewer middle income groups tends to become a
country divided. The poor
have less chance to climb the ladder, to bridge the gap.
Yet I’m proud of the progress these countries have made.
of leaders who have taken a humble course to reach leadership – a
course seeming to be followed in
by Sonja Ghandi and now the new prime minister, former finance
But back to the obesity story. It’s
another of our stereotypical pictures that all Americans are
overweight and overeating. The
reality is that the obesity problem there is more related to the poor
– who eat junk food because it is cheap – and who can’t afford
to go to the gym or have a tailor made personal fitness programme.
There are similarities here in Britain – and it’s to that degree that
the government is looking at regulations on the advertising of high
sugar, high fat foods, and is encouraging people to develop lifestyle
patterns that include the word “exercise”.
Now if you are listening in
or parts of
you may be amazed to know that I see people jumping into their cars to
drive just a few hundred meters to the shop.
Why? It seems to
take more effort to get in and out of the car than to walk.
Yet, despite increasingly high fuel prices,
people have become lazy. So the government is encouraging
walking, cycling – in fact anything that will reduce traffic and
And exercise can be fun. And
no, I’m not talking about the London Marathon or some gruelling game
in the rain on a Saturday afternoon.
I’m talking about the pleasure I get walking my dog each day
and seeing the changing moods of nature in my local park.
I’m talking about the joy of achievement I see in the faces
of young people who’ve learnt to map read and hike in the country,
or who’ve found that they can manage a kayak for 10 minutes without
capsizing. I talking about
the satisfaction of seeing a piece of waste ground turn into a garden
– a wonderful community project I saw taking place in
that could be repeated the world over.
And if you don’t like the suggestions I’ve made, find some of your
own that you do like – something that gets you a little out of
breath, that you enjoy, and that you can choose to do several times a
And if you want a spiritual dimension on the subject – note that
exercise also stimulates the mind.
With the blood circulating better, the heart muscle stronger,
and the oxygen coursing through the brain, it’s easier to ponder the
meaning of the greeting that John gives to Gaius in his third letter:
Dear friend, I pray that
you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as
your soul is getting along well.
3 John 1:2 (NIV)