I groggily hit my buzzing alarm clock. My vision is still too blurry to read the bright red numbers, but I know it is 4:45AM. My motivation to rise before the daylight starts to wane, but my mouth is already dry from sleep, so I know I should drink some water before the sun comes up.

I stumble out of bed and into the kitchen, grab a glass from the cabinet and fill it up at the sink. Gulping down the cold water, I start a pot of coffee and pour myself a bowl of cereal. Two cups of coffee and some Raisin Bran later, my day begins.

I’ve decided to fast for a day in honor of Ramadan. I am not Muslim, and I’ve never fasted, but I find the concept of Ramadan beautiful: From sunrise to sunset, I will go without in order to empathize with the countless people in the world who are forced to go without every day. Fasting isn’t simply about asceticism for its own sake; the purpose is to redirect our thoughts and energy to lift up others.

When 1:00PM rolls around, my stomach starts to rumble. By 1:30 my thirst is noticeable though not overpowering. But then that 2:30 feeling hits, and this self-professed hopeless coffee addict feels pretty cranky with the insufficient amount of caffeine I’ve consumed. Since I didn’t need to take a lunch break, I decide to take a nap to stave off the headache. A half hour later, I find the migraine is successfully averted, but my thirst is not. I cheat and drink a bottle of water. Sorry, I’m new to this!

That bottle of water, though, reminds me how fortunate I am. How many people in the world don’t have access to clean water? My stomach growls again, and I think longingly of nightfall. How many people in the world—in my own community even—face this feeling every day? These are the points I so easily forget. My body has felt the impact of fasting, but so has my heart. The next time I have a hunger pang, I thank God that I have the opportunity to eat today, and I pray for those who do not.

I spend the evening at the local masjid, meeting new friends and handing out information about CAIR-Oklahoma. When I step back outside, the sky is dark and the moon is bright. I feel a sense of accomplishment from the day, not because I have gone without, but because I have gained so much, and I look forward to trying my hand at fasting another time—this time without cheating!

– Jillian Holzbauer is the first Communications Director for the Oklahoma chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.