Agreed. I'm not sure how to deal with this myself yet, but I am working on it.
Writing about life-long learning and discovery at: www.neoapprentice.com
:: A neo-apprentice knows there are no true masters.
25yo FTM to a Wiggle Panda , student teacher , newlywed
Such an interesting coincidence that I've just listened to a podcast called "Philosophize This" discussing Aristotle and his recipe for living well- vigor, vitality, and health. I couldn't help but see how these things are an incredible struggle for so many in the world.
I am so inspired, especially, by amberskyfire's post and her lifestyle.
I don't have quite the socioeconomic privileges of Moominmama, but I am consistently awed by the way her family loves their lives. I think it's wonderful that their privileges allow for such firsthand experiences.
I also greatly enjoyed Sweetsilver's account of her 2 years of self-imposed poverty to gain experiential insight to others less fortunate.
I am struggling with some pretty vast consumerism in my son lately, and am always trying to find balance between indulging and denying his endless material desires. We try to make what we can within the scope of having a toddler and homeschooling- makes growing food and building/creating things so challenging. I try to buy used from thrift stores as much as possible, but see the value in buying new items for the sake of longevity and warranty (such as our bicycles, car, appliances). I crave opportunities to be of service to those in need, be they friends, neighbors, homeless, etc. But there are pretty much no opportunities that I've found where children their age are allowed or appropriate. I feel that in a few more years, our opportunities will be more available, and hope to eventually involve them in Food Not Bombs and Habitat for Humanity. I give some of our snacks to beggars at stoplights when I can, and occasionally even think to make extra food just for such occasions. The kids notice and ask questions and we talk about it.
Thanks for this wonderful thread and all the thoughtfulness you've all contributed. So much to keep in mind and ponder.
This thread really resonates with me because I feel so strongly that our attitude -- our decision regarding whether to see ourselves as privileged and in a position to give something to others, or "crapped upon" to the point where life just sucks and we should never even try to give to others -- plays a huge part in how we experience life. And it's been depressing to me that an important person in my life seems to veer so extremely toward the other end of the spectrum in his attitudes.
For the past few years, I've worried because dd1, who is now 13, seemed to identify so closely with this person and she'd often accuse me of not really being able to see reality. I didn't know how to communicate with her that I just see a different reality than this other person does. I mean, I tried to explain where I was coming from, but I agree with those who've said that there are some things our children just have to learn and decide for themselves.
Recently, I was greatly encouraged to see dd start developing her own opinion about friendship. One of this influential person's favorite lines is "Friends are overrated." In other words, people can and do hurt us so let's just not let anyone get that close. A few weeks ago, dd was badly hurt by one of her friends, and I was impressed to see her willingness both 1) to allow herself to cry and feel the full extent of her emotions, rather than just automatically transforming all the hurt into anger, and 2) to resolve that she had to keep on getting out there and taking the risk of opening herself up to new people, and not just withdraw.
Even more recently, she shared about another hurtful incident with me, but mentioned that she didn't want this other person to know about it because of what he'd say and how upset he'd be about her being hurt.
I think the willingness to take risks and give of ourselves to others comes from an inner sense that we are really rich and can "afford" to do so. It really has very little to do with monetary privilege. We are currently very poor, at least by U.S. standards, and I'm not ashamed to ask for and receive help when we need it, but I also feel like we have a lot to give. And I love that phrase "give forward," and the more we are given, the more eager I feel to pass it along as we see a need and are able to respond to it.
And if there's a potluck, I like to bring a dish of whatever I can make. If we stayed home we'd still be eating something, right?, so why not just bring a little something to share and enjoy the fellowship with others?
Now, if the people organizing the potluck say, "There'll be plenty of food so please come even if you can't bring anything," and things are kind of tight for us at the moment, I'm okay with going empty-handed and just enjoying one meal that we don't have to think about -- but I never want to communicate the idea to my children that we don't have anything to give. We're all privileged just to have each other and warm sunshine and air and water.
I'll admit that I haven't yet learned how to communicate this concept with my daughters without really annoying at least my oldest, but I think it's really a case of actions speaking louder than words.
My kids are pretty little (oldest is 7) so my approach has been what I think is appropriate for them. My priority as a parent is to build good character in my kids. I have thought a lot about how to foster empathy and an appreciation for their rich blessings, and I really think the key is practicing a habit of gratitude. We have done this a LOT through sharing what we are grateful for and doing gratitude challenges. We also practice service - first within the home then, as they've gotten older, in the community. They have discovered for themselves the joy in serving others. There are SO many opportunities to serve right where we live. I feel like they are really getting it. We read a lot and our 'school' stories (my oldest is homeschooled) focus on building those character values. Which in many cases involves dealing with adversity. We also have done an 'adopt a child' sort of program at a specific Ugandan children's home that our church partners with, and they have gotten to see a lot of photos and videos from Uganda, showing the good and the not so good conditions the kids have lived in. I feel like, at their young ages, these things have helped build a good foundation for increased education and service opportunities as they get older.