I have fond memories of my early life because I was brought up by a woman, my mother, who never tolerated laziness. Her favourite advice was always: “don’t feed the stomach before the brain. When the stomach is empty, it makes the brain think. When the stomach is full, it makes the brain to switch off.”
By feeding the brain, she wanted us to read first before eating. She always encouraged the right behaviours (going to school and doing house chores) despite having not gone far in studies herself. Thank God she was educated, not trained. She knew what critical investment was – applied knowledge.
Once in a while, one of us would get rattled and go on a self-imposed hunger strike for no social cause. Despite living in times of food scarcity, she would always put aside your meal, but would never dare beg you to eat it. If you are nearby, the family would enjoy the meal while making those appetizing sounds of a great meal – the prolonged ee’s and chewing. But once you ‘strike’ you cannot easily change your mind and eat. You had to be a man and strike the whole day.
By supper time, one would be bitten and weakened by hunger that they would be the first to sit at the food mat (we had no dining table then). And that is when mom would strike. “Start with your lunch meal, then join us. I don’t have money to waste on food here.” Despite having suffered the whole day, you had to start on cold food stored for you at lunchtime.
She always taught us practically.
I do not remember any of my siblings going on a second hunger strike. It was always once, and the lesson would be learned for a lifetime – if you strike you are on your own. No one dies by not eating for 72 hours. And so, your wish would always be granted.
But she would never allow someone to dodge school. We knew that was not acceptable. If you dodged school and she got to know, you had to fetch water from an open well located about 2 kilometres away for the family for the next two days – all alone. Holding a 20-litre jerrycan in your palms was never an easy feat. And you had to so five times daily.
That way, she taught us to always feed the brain by reading, and then look for food. In her wisdom, if your brain is full, it would always provide for your stomach. She was spot on. We learned the power of education and hard work – the two elements for success.
Next time you are over-eating, stop and go read books. A full stomach is not good for your brain.
Remember, “don’t feed the stomach before the brain. When the stomach is empty, it makes the brain think. When the stomach is full, it makes the brain to switch off.”
Copyright Mustapha B Mugisa, 2020. All rights reserved.