Christ Church Youth just finished doing the 30 Hour Famine this Sunday after Easter. Anne and I participated, didn't eat, and slept in the parish hall with the kids. (I am getting a bit old for sleeping on the floor!) But it was a thought provoking event for the kids and for the adults.
In some ways I wish we had done it as a parish event, not just a youth event. After all, many of us can give up food for 30 hours, and seek to set aside or to get money to help feed the truly hungry. And most of us become much more compassionate when we have felt the initial stage of hunger.
In 1971 I remember feeling overwhelmed the first time I went to the grocery store after living in Guatemala for 5 years. There was so much stuff. And people threw jars and bottles and cans away! I was shocked by choice and consumption. I thought about how so many poor people I knew in Guatemala would have been able to re-use all that trash and how sad it was that we just threw it away.
Gandhi said, "Live simply, so others can simply live." Yet how simply? I know that Americans, self included, consume disproportionate amounts of the worlds goods. Yet, if we were to completely stop, what happens to the people who produce the goods we consume? There is some truth to trickle down economics.
I am no longer shocked by conspicuous consumption, but when I find plastic trash out in wild places, or snokeling, or walking along the beach I am saddened. I am thankful for technology, and yet I wish that as a species we were more thoughtful about the long term effects of our actions. I wish that we could think generations ahead, not just a few years ahead.
Of course to each his own consumption. Some people would be shocked by the number of books I have. (There is no such thing as too many!) Others might be shocked that by the sheer amount of electric power Anne and I consume to cool a house that we are not in for at least 12 hours a day.
Ultimately there are no simple, easy answers. But it would do us all good to reflect on what we need versus what we want. Jesus reminded us to store up treasures in heaven, and not to be overly greedy for this world's goods. It seems to me that he and a great many other wise people have thought the same. Perhaps they know something I need to learn.