“Eat your food!” That’s what many of us were told as children. “There are starving children in Africa.” It turns out, however, that we can better contemplate the needs of starving children once our own bellies are full.

Especially at this time of year, it might seem incongruous to think of those in need while we load up on Thanksgiving goodies for ourselves. I know I feel a twinge of guilt while rushing out the grocery store and past the food drive donation box.

Yet gratitude and compassion go hand in hand with full bellies. Recent studies show that we find it easier to turn our eyes to those who are less fortunate when we have enjoyed some abundance ourselves. As Christians, we are designed to both enjoy and share God’s good creation with gratitude and compassion.

As we contemplate our own prosperity, it can prompt us to better love others. One recent study found that people were more generous toward others when they had recently experienced the satisfaction of a need. Comparing hungry people with recently fed people, researchers found that those who had just eaten after being hungry were more willing to help another with a growling stomach. (They weren’t more helpful in general, just when others were hungry.) Another study found that people who were hungry were more likely to avoid others who showed possible signs of disease.

This is no surprise when we consider that compassion and our bellies might go hand in hand, neurologically speaking. The gut has as many neurons in it as does the spinal cord. Many scientists call this neuron-intensive region the “second brain.” Perhaps this is why we have “butterflies” in our stomachs or “gut feelings” ...

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