Wednesday evening as I was packing up my stuff after lecture, I had a student approach me to ask a question. I'd been wanting to touch base with him after a disclosure he'd had in a previous assignment and as much as my job is to *just* teach my students, I always desire to help them be as successful as possible in all aspects of life. This student had had a falling out with his family and was facing homelessness, and while he's connected to case workers and has a good understanding of the local resources, it was still heart breaking to learn in our conversation that night that he was indeed spending his nights on the street until he was able to gain government housing or access into a shelter.
As a now single, female instructor, I didn't feel that I could offer to house him in a spare bedroom and the student continuously repeated that he wasn't looking for sympathy or a hand-out, just a conversation about the reality of working with him to ensure his success in the course. I verified that he had two warm sleeping bags to at least attempt to protect him against our 30-40 degree nights and asked about socks, coats, and access to food. So at the conclusion of our conversation, the student vanished into the night.....and I headed out into the elements in my leather boots, wool hooded trench, and scarf before piling into my gas guzzling cross-over to stop at the store to buy more food when I already have full cupboards and then heading home to my huge house that I've fretted over rearranging and redecorating twice in the last six months and yet is only currently housing one person...all the while thinking about how much excess I take for granted, how far I've come from my years embracing the simplicity movement, and feeling guilty about my current state of always wanting more or something different even when I have SO much already and when so many others are just trying to get by on so little.
Thus this is where my mind has been the last few days--still contemplating my student's reality, still wondering how I got back to here, still pondering how I can re-bridge the gap, still asking myself how I can do or give more, still trying to figure out how to live in one world yet also in a way as to not so negatively impact others and the decline of the world/planet.
Some of these thoughts surfaced again the next day when I also discovered that one of my former veteran students/employees is also facing homelessness--granted he has more choice & resources ahead of him than my other student, but still disconcerting.
And some of these thoughts were also brought to light back in late September when I attended Women at the Center hosted by Oregon Environmental Council and Population in Action, when I was again reminded how much our current levels of over-consumption, toxicity, and over-population are truly not sustainable. I was saddened to learn that Anna, based on her size and breed, uses and consumes more resources than 5 citizens from third world nations. I was forced to again see the negative projections that the future holds based on our levels of consumerism. I watched this film and heard the overview of this report based on the state of the world. Regardless of whether or not you believe in climate change, I would think that you can't help but agree that the world has been changing...and that we live in a world of inequities--inequities that those of us that "have" frequently turn a blind eye to. We tend to take our lives for granted...and still want more to fill it. And in this, I have absolutely not been an exception.
The last few weeks but the last week especially, I've spent many moments thinking about my current levels of consumerism (even as I still awaited my Iphone 5 on order, enjoyed my new blue-ray player that replaced my dead DVD player, and made another trip to Target....sigh...FAIL). I've tried to think through why I'm making the spending/credit decisions I am. I've wondered if I should give up Pinterest and/or FB. I've looked around my house and asked myself to be settled with the furniture I have now (that in it's current arrangements meets my needs). I've asked myself to think less about wants and to recognize that I have my NEEDS met. I've reflected again on the old adage to "live simply so that others can simply live." I've again thought about advertising for a housemate. I've asked myself how I let myself stop seeing the world and instead only focused on seeing myself....
In the last three months, I've again started to pray for God to remove suffering from people across the world--even if just for a few moments at a time. Today I sent another donation to the gospel mission. I still have a full bag of clothes to pass on. I'll recycle the old DVD player rather than throw it out. I frequently share how I can.....But all these things are minimal, especially when I'm still living a life of ME, ME, ME and I WANT, I WANT, I WANT. I'm reading Flower Patch Farm Girl consistently this month about her series on Going (even though sometimes it's also waiting to hear & see just where God wants you), and I'm wondering how I can USE MY LIFE to do more, to be the reality of what I want the world to be.....
Today a line of Jason Marz's stood out to me "I like the way you think, but I hate the way you act...." I was again reminded of needing to THINK but yet to also follow through on those thoughts via my actions. I imagine the next several months to be a period of reacquainting with myself--the old version, the current version, in order to determine the version I want to be in the future. And part of what I need to be doing during this process is again remembering how much I have and yet how little I truly need. I need to remember to be settled in myself and in my soul rather via the way the rest of the world would like to view us all. I need to reread old posts like this one from my former self on living simply.
So, in terms of actions and in a way to re-explore the notion of simplicity and less consumerism, I'm thinking about making November a buy-nothing month. No new gadgets. No books. No clothes. No new house goods. I'm stock piled on feminine products, bathroom goods, clothes, canned foods, bedding, etc. I'd grant myself permission to buy fresh fruits & veggies. I'd grant myself permission to potentially buy plane tickets for December. And because I honestly feel like I NEED to be social to keep my mental health up these days, I'd also grant myself 1-2 social events/meals out each week. I'd prefer to keep it to one out, but we'll see.
There's so much more I should and need to be doing...but this might be a place to start. Buy nothing, be mindful, focus on gratitude, PROVIDE where and how I can, APPRECIATE, enjoy, reacquaint, settle in, and GROW--all sound like great words and great actions for November.....