I’m continuing my series on being a Unitarian Universalist. Every once and a while you’ll see this listed under the “religion” category but often we aren’t identified as an individual group so I thought it is important to recognize this group and role it plays in my life and my parenting by doing a blog series on it. This week I continue with the sixth UU principle:
The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
I had paused writing this series for many reasons but in all the ways the world has seemingly changed in the past three months I’m going to pick it up again.
The sixth principle is a lofty one considering the time in history that I am sitting and writing this; this will be an interesting unit in someone’s American history class someday. It mentions a “world community” in a time where I feel like we are in a tug of war to expand that global society but then retract because of nationalism taking hold across many countries around the world.
In the past three months I have seen incredibly amazing ways that we have come together as a society to support each other during COVD19; I’ve seen support for students, teachers, grocery store workers, medical professionals who are working tirelessly to help us make it through this pandemic.
Some of these workers are some of the lowest paid workers in the country but they have gone to work to keep essential businesses running. The average salary for a grocery store worker according to indeed.com is between $10 and $20 an hour. The instacart shoppers who have filled so many orders in the past three months while only making $10-11 an hour or the Amazon pickers who make approximately $15 an hour. These people are doing jobs that have been helping keep us fed, comfortable, and filled with essential and non-essential items alike. They deserve our thanks, our support, and have shown us some of the best sides the United States has to offer.
In the past twelve weeks I’ve also seen signs of some of the worst in humanity. There has been hoarding and panicked shopping that has left people with empty shelves because those of us that have perceived scarcity and can buy extra “just in case” have taken away from those who can only buy exactly what they need and how much they can afford on any given shopping trip. I have heard (not witnessed luckily) of fights breaking out over items because our lives may not be as comfortable as they were four months ago. When faced with just a little bit of stress some of us have lost our minds completely.
One day while I was in the grocery store during the early days of this pandemic I had to confront the ideas that I was shopping for what I needed versus what I thought I needed. I was buying food and pantry items in larger quantities or “just in case” because I wasn’t sure when the next time I’d be back in the store without really thinking if we really needed those items. I was contributing to the perceived scarcity as well as actual scarcity for some people because I wanted to buy three types of chicken breast just to make sure MY family had chicken breast for weeks to come without thinking about those families that could only buy one type of chicken from week to week due for whatever reason. I was buying food labeled “WIC approved” in quantities that far exceeded my family’s needs because I was afraid of doing without in the next few months not thinking that someone may only be able to buy those items and when they came to purchase items from the store they wouldn’t be able to because I bought it all (figuratively speaking, I did not actually buy all the peanut butter at that particular moment but it crossed my mind). How was that really living this principle? How was that contributing to the “world community” this principle speaks of? Short answer, it wasn’t.
Part of what I love about belonging to a UU church (and this can be your experience in many organizations, I just personally have found it here) is that every day I am asked and pushed to live these principles in the small, mundane ways but also in larger ways. While I am not going to single-handily change the face of this nation or create peace, justice and liberty for all in one sweeping gesture, I can try to create these things for the people I interact with directly and indirectly on a regular basis. By really looking at how I was handling my grocery shopping I was able to change the way I shop to hopefully to think about other families than just my own.
Thinking about what I was doing and asking myself if my actions came from an place of perceived scarcity or real scarcity gave me the chance to make different decisions a person suffering from real scarcity might not be able to make. Taking that pause and realizing when I act from a place of PERCEIVED scarcity I could be creating REAL scarcity for someone else. I have confronted this in myself these past three months and realize that much of my behavior was resulting from a feeling of not having enough when the reality was we really do have enough and part of my job as a parent is to model to the Munchkin that we might not have the “normal” foods we still have food, we can still eat nutritious meals even if they aren’t “perfect” or the ones we want at a particular time. Part of being a citizen in this global community is by learning to share; you wouldn’t let your kid eat all the cookies at a party so there is no reason for my family to hoard all the cookies (or toilet paper, water, bread, etc…) in the global party of humanity. A really great podcast from Balance365Life came out in regards to this: How To Talk To Kids About Food During Times Of Uncertainty With Terri Ney
I realized that my behavior around food and other items during this pandemic was not part of creating peace, justice, and liberty for all the others who followed in my wake at grocery stores, target, or wherever. By focusing only on what I actually needed as well as taking into account other options available to me because of my situation I could better act in accordance with this (and many other) UU principle.