artwork by He Qi
The idea for this column was to draw attention to facts of which we might not be aware. Every couple of weeks, we wanted to highlight injustices with some numbers and statistics and then offer practical solutions. We simply wanted us all to become aware of both how we may inadvertently be a part of the problem and how we can be a part of its solution.
That approach, in educational terms, is very top down. While definitely necessary, this week I’m thinking more in terms of bottom up:
Lenna, my youngest daughter, sprouted like a sunflower over the summer, the result being she has outgrown all of last year’s school clothes. Now, this was no surprise to me, but Lenna always seems a bit caught off guard when her old favorites no longer fit. When the sleeves are too short, and her pants begin to look like crops, she just doesn’t understand how this could have happened to her.
The logical thing, to me, would be to hand down her like new, EUC (ebay lingo for Excellent Used Condition) wardrobe to our neighbor friends, whose daughter is one size behind Lenna. The father of that family of five is the pastor of a small nearby church, and they are always really excited to receive the clothing, either for themselves or for friends. And I’m always really excited that the clothes find a new home.
Lenna, however, is not. Not only is it unfair that her legs were stretched like silly putty, it’s also not fair that her favorite articles of clothing should no longer be in her possession. Just a few weeks ago, we had a spat over this issue, as she didn’t want to let anything go. I was exasperated. And she was in tears.
Later, that afternoon, as I watched her swim with her big sister, I thought about why she was so unwilling to let go.
“Lenna, you know Daddy and I will get you new clothes,” I had told her. “And you know you’ll even be able to pick them out yourself,” I added. Since she and Ella are now pretty much the same size, there are no more hand me downs for Lenna. I thought she’d be ecstatic. But she hadn’t been.
Maybe Lenna was afraid to let go because she wasn’t sure if she would like her new clothes as much? Maybe deep down, she didn’t trust that Bjoern and I would really buy her new clothes? Maybe the idea of letting her stuff go evokes a deep seated insecurity in her?
Maybe she is not alone?
Perhaps the reason that many of us are afraid to share is the deep-seated insecurity in all of us that God will not provide for our needs once we have let go of our possessions. Maybe we are afraid we won’t have enough – money, time, food, energy, stuff. So we hang on to it, just in case. Sometimes, we may even hoard it, I think. Just in case. Just in case God isn’t there for us. Just in case He’s got better things to do.
Looking around, I’m beginning to see how our culture feeds this fear. The banks promise security and freedom with their savings accounts, the stores promise us more bang for our bucks, and the universities promise us job security with their degrees. And this all feels normal to us, to acquire our own existential security through culturally applauded self-effort. And when we’re so busy securing our own freedoms, we are, perhaps, less apt to forget our own needs and remember the needs of others.
The clothing industry is so concerned with their profit margins that it would seem silly to waste money on safety for cotton farmers dying of pesticide poisoning. The consumers are so concerned with having enough of the stylish trends to get them through the winner that it would seem counterintuitive to pay more for a five dollar shirt.
While it would certainly be a noble effort to demand safety precautions for cotton farmers in India, buy organic clothing, or purchase second hand clothing at Goodwill as Part of the Solution, it would also make sense to first believe that God will provide for us when we have done the right thing.
Lenna went with me to the neighbor’s to drop off her old clothes. She actually got a kick out of showing their daughter her favorite outfits because she was involved in the process. And then I wasn’t just the mean mommy who took her clothes away; I was also the mommy who took her “shopping” on Ebay for the pink polka dotted skirt she had always wanted.