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.