Tererai Trent grew up in a rural town in Zimbabwe, then known as Rhodesia, during colonial rule. She did not have the opportunity to go to school. Instead, she was married with three children by age 18.
Today, Trent holds a Ph.D. and two master’s degrees from the U.S. and is a women’s empowerment leader and education advocate. She attributes this to a strong desire, a little luck and a solid rock.
In her book, “The Awakened Woman,” Trent writes that each person has a “Great Hunger” inside of them, waiting to be awakened. This originated from a parable told in her village as a child, which illustrated that we all have a “Little Hunger” that consists of material desires as well as a “Great Hunger” that is the hunger for a life with meaning.
Trent writes, “The Great Hunger is liberating and energizing; it enables us to move beyond immediate gratification and toward fulfillment. The Great Hunger inspires us, leading us to discover new ways to grow, give and help others. If you tap into the Great Hunger, you will awaken your sacred dream.”
I am intrigued most by the idea of “awakening” our meaning in life. Do we wait for people, or God, to reveal our place in the world, or is it our job to discover it within ourselves?
“The most powerful practice for finding your Great Hunger is to ask yourself this simple question: what breaks my heart?” Trent writes. “When we listen to what makes us ache and breaks our hearts, we find our Great Hunger, our sacred purpose.”
Whatever it is that breaks our hearts, living a life to intentionally advocate or find a solution to that problem is where we will find meaning. Is it poverty? Inequality? Assault? Mental illness? Wonder about it, meditate on it and brainstorm how to do something about it.
For Trent, the oppression of women in Zimbabwe broke her heart. Generations of women before her were survivors of abuse, rape and polygamous marriages. She said that it seemed like women in her village just accepted lack of respect and opportunity was a way of life — unchangeable.
After fleeing her adulterous and abusive husband, Trent met a women named Jo Luck from Little Rock, Arkansas. Luck was then the president of Heifer International, a nonprofit that fights hunger and poverty worldwide. She had come to Trent’s village where she spoke about Heifer and listened to women’s struggles in Zimbabwe. While sitting in a circle of women with Trent by her side, Luck turned to Trent and asked what her dreams were. Trent said this was the most pivotal point in her life — the point where she first declared her desire for education.
“If you desire and believe in your dreams then they are achievable,” Luck told Trent. Trent’s “Great Hunger” was awakened. She would pursue an education and use it to invest in her Zimbabwean community, alleviating the plight of girls and women.
In true Zimbabwean fashion, Trent wrote her dream down on paper, sealed it in a can and buried it under a rock. This symbolized that her dreams were now planted, and she was committed to ensuring they bloomed, while always being rooted in the hometown she planned to invest in.
I think the world will become great again when we awaken our “Great Hungers.” What breaks your heart and where will you plant the blueprints for your future?