As I sit next to a window in Gent, Belgium, looking outside at the swaying trees and bicycle-filled back patios, I am thinking about languages. Last night I went to a dinner party where I was the only native English speaker. The party, filled with lovely people who were very kind, still only seemed half accessible to me. This, however, got me thinking about universal languages.
In music classes growing up I learned Latin, Italian and French terms without thinking. “Forte” and “fermata” could just as easily have been English in my mind, but they aren’t. Music, however, is universal and what is beautiful about that is the idea that musicians from around the world can come and sit together in a symphony, and without any words at all, they can speak to the audience. Through tones, phrases and beats they can communicate incredible joy, deep sorrow and expressions of greatest hope. That is the power of a universal language, the language of music. Some other universal languages that occur to me include art and nature.
But then there is another, a language so powerful that it brings nations together and pulls at our heartstrings. It is a language so global that we cannot keep ourselves from its imminence. It is the grumble of a stomach – the language of hunger. We have all felt hunger, that pang in our middle when we forget to eat lunch amidst our busy schedule, or the urge in our insides to refill the calories that we burned at soccer practice. Some of us, however, feel this hunger every day, and some of us may not even know what it is like to feel full. I believe that it is this universal language of hunger that keeps us working for a new day – it keeps donors writing checks and you reading this blog. It keeps staff members tuned into their projects and partner organizations in communication. It reminds us in a very real and physical way what it means to support the ELCA World Hunger program, what it feels like to be hungry, and encourages us to begin spreading a new universal language – the full stomach.