The other day my husband and I were talking about consumerism and the American culture. It sparked a memory of when I was a young teen surrounded by friends from many countries from Korea to Italy, Chile, Sweden, France, Arabia, Norway, India and more. I used to go to these friends homes and experience their cultures. The different foods, decorations on their walls, their dress, their manners and politeness. Such wonderful people I was blessed to have known. My young eyes and heart yearned to learn more about each culture to understand how they could be so loving and kind and so firm in their beliefs and ways.
I remember visiting a family from Korea and feeling so loved, so welcomed and pampered just for stepping foot into their home. Smiles enveloped around me. Hugs and immediate offerings of food and drink. Ah…the American girl comes to visit our humble home. The women of the house would shower me with compliments and blessings and welcomes. Wanting to hear every word I spoke so they could learn more about our ways. Yet there I was wanting to learn more about theirs!
In my eyes, their homes were a special kind of paradise. A treasure of differences so beautiful and welcoming. I’d go back home to my simple abode and look around. I’d think to myself…where is our culture? As I’d look at posters on my wall, books lined on my shelves. Piles of clothes in the corner. I’d walk into our kitchen and think, hmm, we don’t have those spices or roots or types of lettuce. We never had Basmati rice or handmade breads and pastries. Nope, we ate out of boxes and ate meat that roasted all day in a crock pot. I dreaded Steak um nights. (Do they even make those anymore?) I’d think to how simple many of these families lived, yet how very happy they were. I even recall one mother telling me, “Things do not make your world happy. You make your world happy”. Somewhat of a guru speech at my young age.
I’d enter our living room and family room and see the typical American style and get a disappointed look across my face. I did not feel warmth, or love. I saw couches, tables, a tv, drapes…nothing special. I will admit, I envied my neighbors. I envied their passion for life. I envied their passion for their faith. I envied their foods, their dress, their ways. Each so different from each others and so very different from mine. I yearned for the simple life in an entirely different way than I knew.
This gift I had, as a young girl, of knowing these people sparked my passion for wanting to travel the world. Something which I could never afford to do, yet thanks to the internet have been able to travel to any country I wish and delve into my imaginary travels across vast seas into nature, decorative homes and lifestyles.
I must say, I broke the 10th commandment.
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
Over and over, I broke it. Yearning for a different lifestyle than what I grew up with. Knowing that somewhere in this world was a lovelier way of living. A more compassionate, consumption free way. For all I saw in our culture was SHOPPING! Eating out, fast food, media and more shopping. Spend Spend Spend! I saw it early on. I even lived within its greedy walls being consumed by wanting to consume. Gimme gimme gimme. Yes. I grew up a consuming puppet and I wanted out!
As a young adult, I had chosen to wean myself off this culture. To delve into a quieter and more frugal way of living. Yet, I still ran for many things I don’t run for today. I am blessed to have a husband who feels the same way. Though we are still working on the children, they are proving themselves to be less into the spending culture than many whom surround them. What truly fascinated me in my youth was the attitude of many of my foreign friend’s families. How rich they appeared, though many had little. Yes, I broke the 10th commandment by being jealous. And still, I’d continue on living the only way I was taught. It took the roller coaster of life to settle my mind on our culture. For one day the big a ha came. How it is not a culture we have. It is solely a consumption we live through. Some will make their ways out of the maze created towards taking all our hard earned $, while others will live forever in debt which they can not ever pay back. That keeping up with the Jone’s which states “I am what I have”. What a culture to behold! Or is it?
Scripture tells us not to worry about material items and to thrive towards YHWH. Do not gather treasures upon the earth.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain,
The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
As we observe the complexity of society as a whole, we can step outside of it’s stronghold upon us. My favorite memory upon speaking to one of my friends from Chile was this statement.
“When I first came to your country, I stepped foot inside one of your grocery stores and just stood there and cried.”
Why did he cry? Because he saw the waste. As we conversed he shared how he saw America. He saw super market store shelves so full and beautiful and people very heavy in size shopping. He saw his own stores back home and how tiny they were and how people ate. He saw unhealthy foods being more popular here than healthy. He stated Americans are spoiled. The poor here would be considered rich in his country. He called our gifts of provision a curse of gluttony as he worked to send money back to his family in Chile. From food to clothing to electronics as well as far more. I didn’t understand him back then. I fully understand him now!
I understand his tears. For I was blessed enough to live abroad to return to what this lovely man saw. And as I stepped into a grocery store for the first time in a decade here, it was as if time stopped. I stood inside one of the aisles and just stared at all the food. The size of soda had increased, the size of a bag of chips had gotten bigger. Super sized and full of poisons. Boxed foods for the microwave outnumbered the healthy raw foods. Boxed cheaper, real food far more expensive. (Which I left a country where real food was far cheaper than the boxed poisoned foods. Therefore eating healthy was financially wonderful!)
I watched many overweight people with glazed looks upon their faces just throwing food into over stuffed carts. My eyes swelled with tears as my mother just looked at me in confusion. We then went to a few stores for clothing and items for my new apt. My heart sank yet again. Super sales, super waste. How much stuff on the shelves. How much junk being sold. Literal junk, yet people were so excited at the prices they just had to have it. Our culture is a brainwashed one. Fill our bellies and our lives with sparkling treats. How the enemy of souls has utilized our greed and envy to keep us enslaved.
Personally, I choose to create my own culture within these walls I live in. One of love, joy, giving, serving and peacefulness. Our family chooses to crush out the enemy’s stronghold on consumption. Eating to live not living to eat. Purchasing 2nd hand and only items that will last a lifetime and not to be tossed out after a few years due to cheapness. We wish to save our planet one change at a time. For the less we consume and purchase, there is less out in the landfills poisoning our earth and water. The more we make by hand, utilizing items that would normally be tossed out, the less garbage tossed out. And by buying the oldies but goodies, we are saving the earth as well. For what once was a one time purchase to last a lifetime has become a throw away. For what money can be made on a forever purchase? And this is the consumer’s demise. For companies and corporations told us to ditch the sturdy and purposeful for their temporary weakly made items. For what customer will come back again and again due to wear and tear as a normal thing if they make something of great quality? There would be no profit! Not to mention all the items made in other countries by people working as slaves. Children working as slaves to fulfill not only our country, but many others greed as well. Consumerism is becoming a “culture” around the world one family at a time.
This way of seeing makes it very difficult for me, as an American to hold a normal conversation with the average person here. For my eyes see deeper into our demise than most are willing to see. Yes, most will say they see it as they continue to live their lavish lifestyles. So few are willing to give up their trinkets and sparkles that make them temporarily feel good until the next item tickles them. So much dust covering so many items in our homes as we wonder why the show Hoarders has come to be.
So as I contemplate what I have learned throughout my lifetime, I can see how many hearts are focused on the wrong things. As for our culture? Well you decide!