Affluence is everywhere today and I can’t be at home or on the internet or in my own head without feeling it expanding in every one of my cells and it is boiling through my body, overflowing here in this writing.
Last night, I’m canning peaches at 10 pm but because I want to, not because I have to and when I got home from ten days away on Monday I threw out two ice cream pails of rotten produce to the chickens. Because why not let it go bad, we aren’t starving, I planned poorly before our trip and we can buy more.
We flew on a plane to visit my parents because driving by myself with three kids for 12 hours is a lesson in sending me to the loony bin, but we can still go, plane tickets for four please. I ordered my son’s homeschool curriculum with the click of a mouse and entered in my credit card info no problem, no problem at all. It’s a luxury this homeschooling, because my hard-working husband earns enough and we are careful enough with money that I don’t have to work. I’m fully conscious this week of the single mom working two jobs, dropping her kiddos at daycare before school even starts, missing her babies first day of kindergarten, coming home just to tuck them into bed. I’m crying for her or for myself or both as I write this.
Careful enough with money, what does that mean anyway? It means we own one old(er) vehicle, but my husband get’s a company one so really it is no sacrifice. And just this morning I was thinking about wanting a bigger one because it is hard to fit all three kids car seats across the back seat. It means almost all the kids clothes come from the second hand store, but they are so nice you couldn’t tell anyway and it means that we grow a garden and belong to a food coop to save on groceries. But we do it so we can eat healthy, our alternative is not noodles and hotdogs and food bank offerings. I don’t shop for myself unless desperate because once I learned about slavery and infertile women left rejected by their families and spouses, as a result of dyeing fabric it took the fun out of it anyway. And we rarely eat out, and I don’t shop, and wow, am I ever ill at my own ideas of sacrifice.
If I dropped my kids at school, I could take a yoga class (and I fantasize some days about doing just this) and get a latte from my favourite cafe. If I went to work, it would be for extras, like new vehicles and vacations and paying off our mortgage sooner. Or I could come home and write this uninterrupted and read a whole book and have a really clean house. But I don’t and instead I am talking with friends who I love about what classes to send our kids too, for them to learn to swim, or play soccer or guitar or whatever. I’m planning what retreats I myself am going to this fall. On a day like today I don’t know what is good and fine and beautiful and enough and what is luxury, luxury, luxury.
And here I am writing about it on the internet and yes, another rich white woman writing on the internet about her discomfort. Time and education and money to sit here in this space. Time to create.
Because I know that right here in my own city today there are people without enough food and clothes (I mean I really know a few of them by name) and today children are dying around the world from lack of basics and does their mother love them less than I love my own. Is her grief different. I know it isn’t.
I don’t know what to do with this and our sponsor children and giving money and our careful spending and our volunteer work here just feel like less than nothing today. It’s like sand between my teeth and I feel so uncomfortable in my own skin I want to run away from myself.
Because North America and Christ’s bride the church, we believe that things like date nights and vacations and retreats and a beautiful home and ample food and lessons for our kids are well deserved and good and basic, if we are ‘responsible’ with our money. And I love all these things. Feel refreshed by them, inspired by them, grown by them.
What is a luxury now?
I ask for the mother who never has the free time to create, I ask for the kids who will never leave the city they were born in, I ask for the kid who spends all their after school hours watching TV, home alone. I ask for the women who are burying their starved children today and for the children who are ‘orphaned’ because their parents can’t afford to keep them.
I ask for myself.
Lord have mercy.
Edited to add on February 1, 2014: Sharing over at Esther Emery’s site today for her syncroblog on spirit of the poor.