I recently read something that captured a lot of thoughts that have been flying about in my head lately.
The gist of it is, I suppose, that just as we would not waste a moment thinking about ruining a pair of shoes or a pair of suit pants to wade into a pond to save a drowning child, so too we could stop ourselves from spending money on additional pairs of shoes or clothing in the first place, and send the money instead to relief efforts aiding those in absolute poverty all over the world.
It's a rabbit hole I'm struggling with lately; just how far down should we go?
Until this past fall, for quite some time, we were trying to spend as little money as possible. Then, we were able to refinance our house and roll my grad school loans into the mortgage and now our monthly expenses are significantly lower. Hurray! If we did have a bit of money to spend, we both thought it would be nice to get more organized, to get rid of things we didn't truly need or want, and to have fewer things of a better quality. I gave away quite a few plastic sippy cups, and bought each girl a stainless steel lidded cup, as an example.
And then I felt confused.
Can I justify buying my kids fancy water bottles, when so many children don't even have clean water to drink?
Christmas was coming, and I felt conflicted about gifts. I don't think we go crazy with gifts, but we bought each girl a few things. I sanded and painted an old door-turned-train-table I had bought off of craigslist, and got them little wooden cars to use on it. A small wooden farm animal set for play in a consignment-bought wooden stable.
I took Nell to The Nutcracker at the Boston Ballet. It was the last year under their current music director, and I really wanted to see it with her. We had such a wonderful time. But do you know how much those tickets cost? Can I justify being lavish with my own children from time to time, when other children not only don't have opportunities in the arts, but they don't even receive the most basic of education?
I'm simultaneously aware of the children of the world who don't receive gifts, who don't have as much as our children have, and aware of the extreme excess of our society, of the aisles and aisles of toys at big name stores, many of which will be played with in America for a few weeks and then cast aside. Many of which will end up in landfills.
People going hungry, unsure where their next meal will come from; and as much as 40% of our country's food production going to waste.
Holding these things in tension: the excess and the waste, the lack and the wanting and the needing.
To what degree ought we to sacrifice, to forego a pair of shoes or a sweater or something for our children, and to give, instead? And yet, I have a responsibility to the children God has given me, to love them lavishly and yes, to give them good things.
In a way, it's easier to have no extra money than to have a very little.