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June 11, 2012 by 25hoursadaymom

First – a quick update. Operation Quit Coffee is a total success. It’s not even registering as a big deal.  The only thing I can say gave me a twinge of regret was when I came down this morning and Blue Collar Guy had already got the stuff brewing – that is one seriously drooly smell, people!  But I made my tea like a good little girl and stepped away from the java.

Second – my head is full. I went to the Life Point Church ladies’ Girls’ Weekend Out. We had Jen Hatmaker come speak. She is truly great. She debuted her new book “7” and spoke about some of the topics in 7.  Seven is about giving up 7 things in 7 different categories, over 7 months, one category per month.  She focused in particular on food, clothing, possessions and spending. (The other categories are Media, Stress, and Waste.) Right up my alley, folks! Totally something I preach all the time. (Why didn’t I have the brilliant idea to write the book, one wonders? But I digress…)

The difference in what I say and what she says is that she is focused on helping the poor. So – when she looks at a closet crammed with clothing, she sees money that could have dug a well in Africa. I cannot profess to anything so nobel – so far. I am very bothered by greed, excess and waste, but I haven’t seen it much through the lens of those who couldn’t dream of such riches. My main schtick is that all this excess is a psychological burden, as well as an actual burden when you have to clean, store, stack, organize and move clutter. If it’s piled up in your closet, it’s piled up in your brain as well.

She mentioned a couple of statistics that should seriously make you sick to your stomach, such as Americans spend 20 billion dollars a year on their pets. 12 billion dollars a year on makeup. Children starve over 80% of the world, while we buy rhinestone-covered collars for our Labradoodles. Little porcelain dog dishes that say “Princess” on them. It is ghastly.

There are two things that are hard in this equation, though, and neither of them is difficulty parting with stuff (for me).

1. I am not an entity unto my own. I’m not the main earner and I can’t make unilateral decisions on the management of money and belongings. So, even if I would happily sell my house, move into a micro-home and give away every thing that is not crucial for our survival, I have four other people who have their own opinions on the matter. It’s probably better in a way, because it’s not rare for me to get carried away with an idea and I might be dangerous to myself if left entirely to my own emotional judgement.

2. Here’s the more substantial quandry: where do you draw the line? So, as I said, it is lucky that I have a line-drawer to whom I’m wed, because who knows what I might do otherwise, but even so – when is it just stupid to not buy something because it could go to the Ethiopians? I could live a perfectly fine life with half my clothing. Even if I only had 3 shirts and 2 pants, I would be better off than many in the world. What would be appropriate to do, then? Direct all the money I previously would have spent in a year on clothes to Ethiopia and just stick with a handful that are perfectly adequate? I don’t know. I don’t have that part figured out yet.

Or consider the pet expenditures again. Now, being a die-hard pragmatist, there are no rhinestone collars on any animal here and I would never dream of owning a Labradoodle, which is essentially an overpriced mutt. Still, have dog, feed dog. I don’t go for fancy food, but I’m a step or two above Ol’ Roy from Walmart. Also, there are my dear, sweet kitties. They don’t need much, but I do provide Cat Chow, lest they step up the array of headless wildlife they trot into my garage. Even if I’m conservative in pet expenses, what does this mean I should be doing instead? Should I add up the couple hundred I spend a year and just send an annual check to some worthy cause? Should I rally up a bunch of other people to join me? (I’m not much of a rallier, though.) I guess I’m just asking if a teensy bit of good does any good at all. I just don’t know exactly how this fits or what this needs to look like for me.

Don’t misunderstand me. I loved Jen Hatmaker and I loved her project and the resulting book. It’s creating the kind of back-of-the-mind irritant that does usually end up being something good, but I haven’t sorted it yet. I’ve been cryin’ about waste and wipes and water bottles for ten years, while wearing the same pair of jeans because it would make me sick to no end to pop into Buckle and drop a couple o’ Benjamins on PANTS for my BUTT. So – I just don’t know what to do with my pricked conscience that was already bleeding over waste in general and is now bleeding for actual living children who are indescribably destitute.

I haven’t made my last mention of this, to be sure. I’m outta words for the moment, however.

 

-Danielle


7 Comments »

  1. Defiantly hear what you are saying. I have to say there is nothing wrong with Ole Roy from Walmart! I have fed that to my dogs all their life and they all look great, in fact, many people have asked me what I feed them because their coats are so shinny. I will have to say that I will have a mutt for my next dog, because they make the best dogs. Overpriced or not that’s a personal opinion. One could say that an Escalade is overpriced, but that’s a personal opinion too. Opinions might be a great topic to blog on. No worries, I will have to convince you to feed Ole’ Roy. Ha ha

    Camilla

    • 25hoursadaymom says:

      Camilla, Ol’ Roy? Yeah, that looks questionable even to me. Mutts I love; my best dog was a mutt, just not a “designer” mutt. The Escalade…err, let’s just not talk about that…ummm. Er, how ’bout them O’s?
      -Danielle

      • camilla cumberlandc says:

        Ol’ Roy it’s wonderful and cheap! Money left over for the starving children of ?????

  2. Doug Brewer says:

    You know, I have never been a big fan of this line of thinking. I have a 57″ big screen in my livingroom. Kids are not starving in Africa because I watch T.V. on a big screen. Kids are starving in Africa…because they live in Africa. Tin pot dictators, warlords, drought, famine, political leaders who don’t care…these are their problems. Those problems will not be solved by you giving up 7 things…or 10…or everything.

    You cannot save the world. No one can save the world. When we ship food, clothing, shelter, etc. to these third world countries their leaders either confiscate it or let it sit on the dock and rot. Because they cannot afford for their people to know, understand..even suspect…that things could be better. Lest they revolt.

    I am saddened by the thought that their are kids starving to death in other countries. Hell, there are children starving to death right here. But the extra jacket in my closet, the T.V. in my living room, the money I spent taking my family bowling… every freakin dollar out of every paycheck I make… wouldn’t change a thing in the grand scheme.

    So, you can realistically do three things.

    1) Sell all your worldly possessions and go minister to the less fortunate like Mother Theresa

    2) Give a little to make you feel better, but still walk around feeling kinda guilty because you are better off than someone else.

    3) Live your life. Contribute what you can when you can, and thank (whomever) that you are you and not them.

    Number 3 is what I do. And it’s what 9 out 10 dentists surveyed recommend.

    • 25hoursadaymom says:

      Well, Doug, you are more cynical than I. But I do think it’s an important point of contemplation to ask where the line is drawn. This is one thing I’m still mulling over. About the topic of goods never reaching the intended, I do know this happens, but there are also smaller organizations that I can be confident this is not the case. I have friends who are physically going to Haiti, for example. I know whatever they take with them or whatever projects they work on while there is actually getting to the people who need it. When I do take steps to help in whatever way, it’s not to alleviate guilt. It’s because I care about suffering. I do believe that alleviating the suffering of any other life is better than alleviating none. Making a difference to one who suffers is certainly small in comparison to all those who are in desperate need, but it makes a difference to *that one*.

  3. dianne says:

    Ouch, I just bought my dog a lifejacket today so that I can safely take him on our boat (bulldogs can’t swim). I also bought him a new foodbowl on a bronze stand, mostly because his bowls now tend to get kicked and spilled when we walk past them and I an hoping that won’t happen if they are fastened together. I feed him Science Diet, but I have been mulling over going “raw” with him because his facebook friends have been working hard to convince me that the Science Diet is crap. (Yes, I’m off Facebook now, but my dog is on with friends now on six continents.) Quite honestly, when looking at what is in cheap dog food (research “rendered meats”) there is no way I would feed that to my kids–and the dog is part of the family. But, there are plenty of other places I could easily cut back.
    I do agree with the comments above, however, that people aren’t starving because of what I have and that my doing without can’t save the world. I generally tend to give where I see a need and am reasonably assured that the money will go mostly where I intend it to go.

    • 25hoursadaymom says:

      Dianne, You have a bulldog? That’s a pretty quirky choice to begin with. 😉 I think the raw dog food thing is just another odd trend. YMMV, though, of course.

      -Danielle

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