Monday, November 5, 2012

dis·e·quil·i·brat·ing

I've often written about the struggle we engage in while we live between two worlds, two realities, two countries. The struggle to rectify: rich vs. poor, feasting vs.fasting, such abundance and such shocking scarcity; and determining how we are to graciously live within the tension - is ongoing. 

We (as americans) come from a culture that says we need a lot - in fact, we need everything, we need newer, brand-name, bigger, and better. It goes unnoticed by most. When I speak of it, I am often met by a blank stare. "What do you mean our culture pushes us further into materialism?" It required being removed physically by living in another culture in order for the problem to become so glaringly obvious.


At home in Port au Prince I just don't care much about clothing, cars, concerts or home-decorating. I feel content and I never have an afternoon where I just  "feel like shopping". I might crave some special favorite food but I don't ever wish I could go browse the aisles for a new vase or furniture, or a new outfit or pair of shoes. When I'm in Haiti I don't struggle against those cultural pressures - the lies that lead me to believe that my wants are actually needs

I only know that I don't enter Target for six months at a stretch and I never feel like I'm missing out on a single thing.  Then, I arrive in America, enter Target, and suddenly I'm desperately lacking a lot of stuff. 

I can hardly look around at my neighbors and feel that *we* need more. How could I?  


In multiple ways I am more comfortable being removed from the American culture and its shopping and restaurants and entertainment ... Because when confronted with it - I want to engage it far too frequently.


What do we need? What do we want? How can we do better at keeping the wants from moving to the needs column in our minds? I don't want to buy the lies. I don't truly need most of what I own.I am uncomfortable with my own bent toward materialism and how easily it changes based simply on my location. 

I'm grateful to have been given an opportunity to engage in this struggle. There are things for me to learn and I am thankful to be learning. I want to know what perfect balance looks like and I want the perfect balance to come easily, even naturally.

For now, perfect balance eludes us and it's quite disequilibrating. 

(above originally a 2007 post, edited and republished) 

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Related:  
a post about an "Eat Down" in 2010

This weekend we put off going to the grocery store no less than five times. This forced us to the point of serving a different meal for every person on Sunday.  I knew it was bad when Isaac came into our room Saturday morning and said, "Can you put syrup on those sandwich buns?" Then on Sunday he returned asking, "If I have that leftover taco meat for breakfast would that okay?"  Taco meat for breakfast?  Sure. Why not?  I get really weird when there is no food in the house; like I get some twisted enjoyment out of proving that it is possible to make a meal out of a can of refried beans, some mayo, one sleeve of saltines and three nearly rotten apples. 

It is called an "eat-down" and it is a thing, a real thing.  It means that you take inventory of your gluttonous ways and truly look at the food you still have in your pantry.  Who says a can of corn is not a meal? Throw a pickle and a black olive on top and it is a colorful culinary vegan masterpiece.

The real trouble occurs when Troy starts to feel he is not properly providing for his family because the cupboards and refrigerator are bare.  He feels safest when there is a two month supply of the staple items.  Oddly enough it caused issues when we first got married because I prefer to scrounge for food and feel superior over not needing to have a big stash and he prefers to have a freezer full and feels smart, safe, and ready for anything. (Earthquakes!)  He used to grocery shop occasionally in those early years and I would be annoyed at his massive stock-piling.  I did not even know why I was mad. Meanwhile, he thought I was an idiot for going to the store and only getting enough for five or six days. We finally figured it out about five years in, so now we enjoy mocking each other like all loving married people do. 


Lessons from the Eat Down found HERE.  


3 comments:

Kathy C. said...

What a good reminder since we are already being bombarded with ads for black Friday etc.

Kim K. said...

I love the eat down posts. I read them then and now and we are doing an eat down!!!!

Mama Ds Dozen said...

Great post! Great thoughts. Great challenge.

We have had a "family policy" for 25+ years: "Kids don't go shopping between Thanksgiving and New Years". (We now need to up things to before October 31st, as "Christmas" is bombarding the stores earlier and earlier.)

Why don't we take the kids to the mall in December? Because they are so bombarded with all that they are pushed to believe that they "NEED", that it is hard for them to discern between wants and needs. (The kids are also not allowed to sit and peruse all of the toy ads in the Sunday newspaper in November and December.)

Yep. We are MEAN parents.

Oh . . . I, too, love to get down to "next to nothing" in the cupboards and figure out what I can make for dinner. Oh yea! Stockpiling? Nope. Not here.

Thanks for sharing.

Laurel :)