THOUGHTS ON MEAGERNESS
One month. One hundred and sixty nine yuan. Here’s what I learned:
1) We can cook Chinese food affordably. Jessica can make awesome fried rice. Brian does a delicious tofu and onion dish, and I feel pretty confident I can do a reasonable job of scraping together some basic ingredients to make almost anything edible.
2) One finds surprising rewards in taking time to walk someplace instead of taking the bus or driving. Saving time by faster transportation isn’t always the better choice. Walking is good for the spirit. A slow pace is good for the soul.
3) Money can never buy a true family or faithful companionship. I feel so grateful for spending this time with Jessica and Brian who were a daily encouragement and devoted companions. And, though Darla lives on the other side of town, just knowing she was participating in this experience with us was a blessing.
4) I think I’ve realized what I appreciate most about having a sufficient amount of money to cover my daily needs; having money is convenient. Honestly, I’ve never been a big spender. I seldom buy things, and so I really thought being “meager” wouldn’t be a far stretch from the way I generally live each month. But I learned that the most significance I place on money is in terms of convenience: grabbing food to eat at a restaurant is far more convenient than buying vegetables (meat is too expensive!) down the hill, trucking back up to the apartment, cooking, and finally cleaning up afterwards. Making decisions to go into town involve more planning to ensure enough time has been allocated for walking there and back. Visiting friends who live far away becomes much more difficult. Making plans with others involves considering how much money I have to spend and what kind of bind a certain activity might put me in later. Ah, convenience. Sadly, I realized that poor people are also an inconvenience on others. Those without money are not able to participate in the types of activities we generally take for granted: eating out, watching TV, using the Internet, basic traveling, etc. We’ve realized that friendships are more difficult to continue when the relationship does not share a similar financial status. This month we’ve felt a significant decline in the amount of e-mails from back home. While it can be argued that those back home knew our Internet usage would be meager and, therefore, decided it must be pointless to keep us updated on their lives, I think it is important to note that we seldom keep relationships with people from whom we do not receive equal effort and involvement. How many relationships do we actually have in which we are giving more than we are receiving or investing more than the other party (and all the while not complaining about this discrepancy)? So this made me think. Why do we not help feed the hungry or give money to the poor? Is it because we don’t care? Is it because we don’t love? I think, actually, we do care and we do love. Much of the reason for not helping those in poverty comes from the fact that it’s inconvenient. Poverty does not come and find us in our pleasant housing and comfortable neighborhoods. Poverty can’t knock on our doors; it’s too busy just trying to survive. We must meet poverty where it is. We, who have the blessing of financial convenience, must inconvenience ourselves to find the poor, to help them where they are. After a month of being conscious of the small amount of money I have to spend, of the limitations I have on everything I do, and of the inconveniences that come with penny pinching, I am convinced that those living in poverty do not have a responsibility to find us before we should feel compelled to help them. We have a responsibility to find them. And, I think we’ll find the more we help others, the less we’ll think about ourselves and the less we’ll consider serving an inconvenience. I hope!