I had to stop at the grocery store today to pick up a few things since we’ve been away from the house for over a week and there aren’t many staples available in our kitchen. I stood in the bread aisle bombarded with hundreds of choices. Thousands of slices of bread stared me in the face. White. Wheat. Low carb. Whole grain. Honey oat. Rye. Whole wheat white. 90 calories per slice. Homestyle. Cinnamon swirl. Bread, bread, bread…so many choices of brand and type and taste.
Why? Why should I have SO many choices for something as simple as bread??
Of course it’s nice to have choices, but I just returned from a place where the people had so very few choices. Not just when it comes to bread, either. Many things in their life aren’t really a choice at all. I met people who live in a leper colony and do not even have leprosy or any other disease. They live there because their parents live there. They were born of a leper, which may as well make them a leper too, for all that it matters in their society. They are the untouchables. Societal outcasts who do not get to choose their place in life. They can choose to leave the colony, sure, but their status in society makes them outcasts nonetheless. They couldn’t choose a career path or an education or a person to marry outside of those walls. The only thing I can think of that they could do would be to get out of there, run away to a developed country, and never tell anyone where they came from. But by what means would they be able to do such a thing? They have no money. They have no job. They have no possessions to trade for a ride outta that place. They simply survive until it’s their time to die. They don’t really have viable choices otherwise.
So…it makes me wonder why I get to have all these choices about everything under the sun while others elsewhere have little choice about anything at all. I am not posing a question of destiny, but rather a question of enough.
How is it that I should have plenty while others have nothing? Wouldn’t it be better for us all to just have enough? Wouldn’t it be possible for everyone to have enough?
I truly believe that there are enough basic resources (food, clean water, shelter, clothing) for everyone on this planet to have enough to survive and even thrive. I just think that there are some of us (ME) who have grown accustomed to a lifestyle that allows us to have more than enough. I am not necessarily saying that having more than enough is an evil, terrible thing. Not at all. But I’m starting to think that having more than enough while my brothers and sisters around the globe and right next door have very little or even nothing is not something that will allow me to sleep well at night. Why should I have MORE than enough when there is another human being on this planet who doesn’t even have enough to live on?
So, you’re a socialist, then? Not at all. I am not proposing that we draw a line in the air, and whoever has something above that line will have it taken from them and redistributed to those whose stuff doesn’t reach up to that line. No way. I don’t think that people who have worked hard to make a living ought to be robbed from any more than anyone else should. (Did you hear me, congress??) I do think that the way this business gets fixed is the same way everything gets fixed…by changing one person’s heart at a time. You see, if all of us truly looked at those around us as our brother or our sister, our child or our mother, then our hearts would be different toward them. We would want to examine our situation and resources and try to figure out how we could best use them to help someone else have access to a life that includes consistent safety, health, and dignity. (Sounds a little like life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness….hmmm) The same kind of life that we enjoy.
Since we returned from India, we’ve barely spoken about the experience. The things we have talked about have been very surface…the funny anecdotes and things we saw. My heart is wrenching after seeing and hearing and feeling the things we did. We just haven’t processed it all quite yet. I looked into faces of people who have lost their hope because they have no choices. Their hearts are sick because they cannot see another way. In the face of things so overwhelming, I found myself wishing for just a second that I didn’t care. I wished that I had never seen any of it, or that I might forget what I saw. Because sometimes, the problems just seem so huge that it seems like nothing will ever solve them. And how do you give hope to someone with so few choices anyway? But that wish didn’t last very long. The more I thought about it, there was one choice that I decided I was glad to have. You see, I decided that I can choose to have a little less than I could. I could choose to cut back in a few areas and still be able to have enough for myself, and give someone else the opportunity to have enough as well. I like this plan way better than having plenty while my brother or sister sits by with nothing. I can give up my plenty, still have enough, and make sure someone else has enough too. No one will take from me what I have…I will freely give it.
If I break it down and look at the numbers, the truth is that it really won’t even cost me very much. If I freely give up one Starbucks coffee, one trip to the movie theater, a new pair of sunglasses, dinner out once a month, and new lipstick colors for the spring, I’ve already made room for one more girl at the children’s home where I visited to have a life of enough. In doing so, I’m really not restricting myself or limiting myself…I’m freeing myself to share my plenty in order to give someone else enough. That’s one choice I’m thankful to have and honored to make.