Lent – Being Aware
So we are one week into Lent. I posted on Ash Wednesday about my ambivalence regarding how to observe the season this year. At this point in my life, I feel the need to build up faith instead of eliminate random habits in the name of discipline. But I really didn’t know how to do that. I finally decided to spend the season simply being more aware.
Now of course being aware could just be a euphemism for doing nothing – and it just well might be. It’s easy sometimes to open our eyes to the world around us and then fail to act upon what we see. That’s me most of the time these days. But when I’m at the point that my main goal some days is just to make it to the end of the day without having gone utterly insane from being trapped inside the house with screaming children – to open my eyes and get past my self-absorption seems like a good place to start.
So being aware…
Here’s where I show how really pathetic I am. I’ve been reading through the Lenten Guide provided by Mustard Seed Associates. It is a fantastic resource, full of faith and community building suggestions for the season. I was drawn to the meditation they had on Psalm 51:10 “Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.” It resonated with my desire to be more aware of my world and get over myself. And it’s a way more spiritual of a prayer than “God help me not be a selfish bitch.” But part of the Lenten Guide is a suggestion to take the Mutunga $2 Challenge. The idea is for a family to commit for a week to eating on $2 per person per day. Since most of the world only makes $2 a day, this is an exercise to help foster awareness as to how most of the world lives. If anything, it serves to highlight how much we truly do have. I think it’s a great idea, but (and here’s the pathetic part) I’m not doing it. But in a strange way that too has helped me be more aware.
When I first heard about the challenge, I mentally started adding up the cost of what it takes to feed Aidan each day. At 8 months his diet is rather fixed and I quickly realized that there is no way that I could feed him on $2 a day. That shocked me since I already try to be economical with his food. His diet consists of breast milk, formula, oatmeal, and pureed fruits and veggies. So the breast milk is free and if I was a bit more diligent about using the (expensive) breast pump I have then perhaps I wouldn’t need the formula. But the reality is that he gets formula in his oatmeal and generally one bottle a day. I’m already over a dollar there. Granted I use organic formula – the stuff that doesn’t contain hormones, steroids, and melamine. Perhaps I could save a few cents by feeding him those poisons, but really? On top of that I make all of his pureed food. I save a ton of money (and disposable jars) doing that, but even 8-10 oz a day adds up fast (between $1-2 a day). But if I were buying the jar food, that same amount of food would cost between $2-5 a day.
But as I thought through that I was reminded that it is generally the poorer mothers who are forced to buy the more expensive foods. For a lot of women because of job circumstances using expensive formula is the only option. And finding time to make babyfood is hard – it’s a lot easier for busy moms to just buy jars off the shelf. Even ignoring what is healthiest for the baby or what is most environmentally friendly – the bottom line is that it costs more to get by when you’re stressed out trying to make ends meet. So I have to ask – what causes this? Is it culture? All the other moms use formula, so it seems like the only option. Marketing? All those free formula samples supplied to hospitals and doctors making their mark. Lack of education? Do women not know the cost difference and health benefits? Or simply systemic injustices that prevent poor mothers from fully focusing on their family. This is not just about the poor in third world countries struggling on $2 a day – but its about minimum wage single moms here that are caught in a system that holds them back. When those that can least afford it have to spend the most on food there are cultural issues that seriously need addressed.
What am I doing about that? I don’t know. Yet. But I know it helps to be aware.