Charity begins at home, but should not end there.
— Proverb Quotes
I was raised in K-Mart, Woolco and Sears, with Sears being the top of the shopping pyramid. My mother liked nice things but she believed that none of us kids would take care of anything, so we shopped exclusively in the discount houses. She couldn’t sew and even if she could have, by the time I was in high school, she was teaching full time while attending DePaul University full time. It would even have been impossible if she had had the talent, which she didn’t.
The good news was that we all wore uniforms to school so our discount wardrobe wasn’t on display most of the time. What we had was enough; it wasn’t classy, but how much do you really need to spend on kids who outgrow their clothes as fast as they’re purchased?
Talk About Abundance!
I went shopping today – at a major mall in an affluent section of town. It’s a place I used to hang out. It was across the street from where I worked and at the time, it was a middle class kind of place with Sears as one anchor and the May Co. as the other anchor. It was so middle class that there was a group of us who went there for lunch every day that we were in the office – to Carl’s for their salad bar. Lunch was inexpensive and healthy.
Over time, this little middle class mall grew up. They added Nordstrom’s, Macy’s, Tiffany’s and finally Bloomingdales. Not only is there a Tiffany’s, but people I knew actually would occasionally buy something there… waaaay out of my league.
When I went there today I went because I have reached the age where I need a “better” face cream to preserve my complexion. I used to complain that I had too much oil on my face, now I keep adding oil to try and hold wrinkles at bay. I was looking for a “gift with purchase” which can only be found at major department store chains. And this mall is near my hair salon, where today I got colored, cut and curled – again, in an effort to look good or at least not so old.
The mall was CRAZY. It felt like Christmas rush – on Christmas Eve. As my mother used to say, “You’d think they were giving it away.” Trust me, they weren’t.
Everywhere I looked, there was opulence – not just nice things, really nice things that cost a fortune – Mikimoto pearls, Bacarat jewelry, new perfumes that had only been out for 5 days that cost $80/bottle, designer sun glasses for $200 – it went on and on. And people were buying! (Mom would never have bought, but she’d have enjoyed window shopping and then we’d have gone to K-Mart.)
How Much Do You Really Need?
All of this got my attention because we started our Lenten Bible Study last Monday and Father Joe told of a Christian he knew that had been unemployed. The man had recently decided to tithe. He had a job now and he was giving 10% to his church. Father Joe asked the man how he managed to give “10% off the top,” no doubt hoping that he could pass a few tips on to us, his faithful congregation. The man told him that while he was unemployed he had learned the difference between sufficient and abundant. Because he had sufficient for himself and his family, he could choose to help others.
Like many of you, I’ve been horrified by the devastation of the earthquake in Japan. The nuclear disaster seems particularly awful in the country that has suffered the most from the nuclear age. No doubt, soon, the appeals to help the people in Japan will begin. And, we will each have to make a decision. Do we give more or do we reduce what we are giving to the homeless here to help the people in Japan? Or, we might ask ourselves, do we have sufficient for ourselves and our families and can we afford to dig a little deeper and help them both? When it comes to helping out, what is sufficient?