I saw the ants again today- I didn’t even bother to try to kill them this time. To be honest, it was one of those moments where the familiar presence of something, even something relatively disgusting, was comforting. There’s been lots on my mind- particularly about the usual things that keep me awake at night…how frigged up the world is and how I have a role in that.
I’ve been thinking today a bit about Gandhi, random- yes.
I wonder if he came up with the idea “be the change you wish to see in the world” while he was doing one of his hunger strikes. Or was it before? Maybe he realized if he was really going to live up to this concept– he’d have to actually act in a way that cost him something- in this case, that he’d literally have to starve in order to change the world around him.
A number of things have happened this week that have led me to this train of thought. Again and again I find myself coming back the now tired topic of the difference between “knowing and doing” and I have written about our society
and how messed up it is- and how messed up we are. I’ve written about having these “ah ha” moments
when I can clearly see how twisted we live and how I have no idea what to do about it.
This week a temporary Walmart employee was trampled to death by shoppers looking for bargains in in a New York City suburb
. A lot of my friends have been talking about this event with total shock and disgust- as they should. It’s shocking and disgusting BUT I can’t help but thinking that it’s not all that surprising either. Do you know how many BILLIONS of dollars will be spent this Christmas on gifts that people do not need? Do you know that the very people who need the generosity of Christmas- the poor, the oppressed, those without homes, or extravagant luxuries like nutritious food, are the VERY people who do not receive gifts? As a society we have bastardized a holiday that was meant to celebrate hope, new life, joy and radical giving and replaced it with a holiday that is based on meaningless traditions like “we have to give them a gift worth about $50 because that’s what they give us.” We pay our homage to the shopping Gods at the temple of the mall and we rush, rush, rush and stress about finding the “perfect” gift for someone who most likely wants nothing more than our time, attention and love.
I say all this, because again I am in that purgatory between knowing and doing. And I know how hard it is when it comes to traditions and the way “things have always been.” Last year I told my mom that I wasn’t “doing” Christmas this year and I didn’t want any gifts. Can you guess what happened?
She shed tears because for her there is great joy in giving my brother and I gifts.
My mom is the most generous, loving, radically selfless women I know and she cried when I told her I didn’t want gifts.
Of all people I expected her to understand.
In the end- my mom made me a sock monkey and bought me much needed tires for my car. She has made me personalized cook books with all of my favourite recipes, quilts, and other meaningful gifts that don’t cost a lot of money. And those have always been, and always will be my favourite gifts.
So this year I am taking a different approach. I’m consciously budgeting how much money I spend. I am setting an amount and sticking to it. When at all possible, I am making gifts for the people I love. Or, taking a cue from my wise friend Sim, I’ll give gifts of my time- or experiences that my friends, family and I can share together. I know, that if I spend less money on the people in my life who already have more than they know what to do with, I can give away more money to those who really need it. I can resist all of the urges in me to consume and consume and to go with the flow. I can decide that no sale is ever more important than a human life.
I just read this article
about a former weapons engineer who now lives on $5000 a year so he can have a smaller footprint and give more money away. A WEAPONS ENGINEER– talk about a modern day tax collector. Stories like this inspire me because I know that if he can change- than I can change. And that’s what it comes down to…I need to change. And perhaps to be a but presumptuous- I think we all need to change. For example- in the process of writing this post, I saw a commercial for Sharp TVs and the tag line of the ad was “Change your TV, Change your life”. We need to speak out against these lies. Hearing such things and ultimately have faith in such lies is what leads to Walmart employees being trampled to death for a good bargain.
Finally, to conclude- I’ll leave you with a Brian McLaren quotation that I love. He’s talking here about a group of people who can come together to actually make a difference and change the world:
” A community of people who begin to wake up to the covert curriculum in which they swim each day and would want to band together to share their insights about it. They would help one another not be sucked in, mot be massaged into passivity, not to be malformed by this powerful educational process occurring in a multimedia classroom without walls or vacations. They would remind one another of the alternative framing story they had come to believe was good, beautiful, and true, and they would seek, together, to live by this alternative framing story, the radical good news.”
I so desperately want to be one of these people and in this group. Please help me to not be sucked in- and thank you for all of the ways you, my community, already challenge and inspire me.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
*Photo credit- Steve Dinn Flickr