I was going to wait until after the New Year to start this challenge, but I felt the need to start now. I know that many people are hurting financially, and that Christmas can often make us think of everything we can’t afford instead of focusing us on our family and what we DO have. And so this post begins the Simple Living Challenge, which will incorporate many of the themes from the book Living More with Less. “Do Justice” is one of the Life Standards suggested in the book.
What does justice have to do with living simply? For starters, it’s one of the reasons that I am striving to be more aware of my consumption and how U.S. trade policies affect people in developing countries.
When I was in grade school, we had a program called Calvinettes, which is sort of like a Christian Reformed version of Girl Scouts. We began each session by repeating our motto. The leader would ask, ” What does the Lord require of you?” We would respond, “To do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God. Micah 6:8.”
Of course back then I had no idea the depth of the meaning of those words. We just tried to be nice to others and learn how to do cross-stitch. It wasn’t until later, when I began working for an international relief and development organization, that I realized how injust this world is and the power that we have to correct it.
I used to think that “social justice” was for liberal Democrats and tree huggers, not libertarians like me. Over the years, though, I have seen with my own eyes the young girls who work in the garment factories in Bangladesh; I have smelled the burnt wood from deforestation and charcoal-making in Zambia; I have felt the pain of a Ugandan farmer whose mud bricks and countless hours of work that went into making them washed away with the unseasonal rain that came before they cured.
Even if you don’t buy the arguments of macroeconomics and climate change, to gaze upon the face of poverty will stir a yearning for justice within you; and visiting village after village teeming with hungry children will make you realize that all the child sponsorships in the world won’t make a dent in alleviating it. You will recognize that the whole village will need to be transformed in order to make sustainable change; to lift families, villages, and even countries out of poverty. When you hear stories of hope you will also hear stories of corrupt governments with broken promises and stolen taxes and aid. And you will be overwhelmed.
There is still hope. Once you know the situation, you cannot forget it. When you return to North America you will thank God that you know where your next meal is coming from; you will be overwhelmed by the choices at the grocery store; you will see the folly in putting things above people.
If you have not been overseas, you don’t have to look far to see injustice in our own cities and neighborhoods. When I worked at a food pantry, I was shocked at how little some people who have full time jobs are paid (well, almost full time – there’s the whole hiring people for just below full time hours so benefits don’t have to be paid, but that’s another discussion). And who doesn’t know at least one person who has been looking for a job for quite some time now?
Armed with the knowledge of how blessed we are, how we affect others, we are ready to begin the lifelong journey of living simply so that others may simply live.
For a list of upcoming themes, check out my review post of Living More with Less.
This post linked to Simple Lives Thursday