Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lose the stuff, material girl.

That's my little girl, beaming unsolicited, because a caterpillar was crawling on her hand.  Have you ever noticed that it doesn't take much to make a kid happy?  I was actually kind of surprised by this when Sarah was a little bitty thing, crawling around getting into things and being constantly amazed by all that she came into contact with.  I remember her first real Christmas, when she was a little over one year, that she cared much more about the wrapping paper and the bows than the toy inside the boxes.  She had no qualms about wearing anything I decided to put on her.  To this day, at almost 6, she's not picky about what she wears though she loves dresses.  She plays with anything.  Bubble wrap, crayons, figurines, un-sharpened pencils, pots and pans.  She likes her toys, but she's largely not a materialistic girl.  This begs the question: at what point in our lives do we begin to long for things most of us cannot afford? Why do I want an Airstream camper and a cool SUV to pull it?  I could settle for a cheaper one, or just use the tent I already have...but for some reason I'd like to have the nicest camper made.  And why do I have to have an iPhone with it's expensive data plan?  Why do I look at the Tiffany & Co. website late at night to see what's new?  Why do I, and most of us, feel the need to keep up with the uber-rich fictional Jones' that my grandmother used to talk about?  The thing is, I'm actually *not* that material, because when I grew up, we had virtually nothing.  I didn't have nice clothes to wear, a nice car to ride in, a horse in a pasture or lavish birthday parties.  My father did the best he could as a single parent (at times working three jobs) and my grandmother kept us fed with the basics and the huge vegetable crop we worked on every year...ruining last year's shoes in the Georgia red mud.  In 1985, when I was 10 years old and Madonna was crooning about being a Material Girl, I was helping my father pick up dead chickens on our chicken farm.  And the more I was around the "haves" at school, I realized quite certainly that I was a "have-not." So my expectation for Sarah as she grows up and goes to school is that she'll learn to want more and more when she sees other kids with other things that she doesn't have.  Already, the television commercials she watches tell her that she needs the coolest new toys or the hottest action figures, the doll with the dress that changes colors, or the waxy stringy Bendaroos.  She's begun to want to be like the rest of her classmates - and she's only in pre-school.  But that's not how she came out.  She came out simply happy to be alive.  Happy to look at the blinky lights on our first Christmas tree, or happy to hold a simple burp cloth and fling it around in her hands.

Look around.  Look at all the Stuff you have.  And even though we've shed a lot of our own stuff as we've moved around the country, Hal and I still have BOXES of Stuff that is sitting in an extra bedroom not being used at all.

Americans work more hours than people in any other industrialized nation and the two main things we do in our off time is watch television and shop.  We go to work, come home, watch television and hear about all the things we need via the never-ending barrage of commercials and then we drag our butts off the sofa and go out to buy them, creating more debt, which we then have to work more hours to pay for.  It's a cycle.   I think if I stood on any street corner and asked people if they'd like to be out of debt, most would shout a resounding "YES!" but there we are in the stores, buying another sweater, another pair of shoes, a new television, more toys for our kids who have too many toys already - you get the point.

Even though I've been fully indoctrinated in this American consumer, materialistic-must-have-society, I'm going to focus on trying to not have so much again.  If I buy something new, I'm going to try to get rid of the thing I have replaced responsibly.  I'm going to donate clothes I can't wear anymore to people in other nations who are lucky if they have shoes on their feet to walk the three miles to get clean water every day.  I'm going to try to buy only things that have been made with some inkling of responsibility for our planet in mind.  I'm going to see if I can teach my daughter as she grows that it's okay not to always have the latest, greatest thing that advertisers are telling her she needs.

This is just a tiny start.  But it's something.


(¯`•._.•[Raajii]•._.•´¯) said...

aww... such an inspiring post :-)

Brandy said...

I like the post, I have a friend who is on a "get rid of 50 things in 50 days" kick. You should try it, it will really help with the idea of living a simpler life.

Hampers said...

Nice blog with nice picture of cutie. She is adorable. It was nice going through your blog. keep on posting.