Monday, January 17, 2011

“Necessities”

I ran out of sugar today. I cannot remember ever having run out of sugar in my adult, on-my-own life. Granted, the reason I ran out is because of a random infestation of weevils in my pantry a few weeks ago (must have brought home some bad pasta or something). I wasn’t buying up a bunch of new staples for a couple weeks in order to deal with the situation. Now I’ve got bay leaves and sticks of spearmint gum everywhere in the pantry to scare ‘em off…and am keeping all grain purchases in the freezer for a few days after purchase to stave off a re-infestation. So in all the putting off of purchasing staples I just let myself get too low and then didn’t feel like getting out over the weekend to the store.

All that to say that I just put the absolute last of my sugar into my mug of tea just now and need to get to the store to buy some more asap.

It struck me though as I put that last bit of sugar into my teacup that we in the US really do have it good. Yes, I know there are homeless and it’s always a good thing to help them out when we can. But overall, people in our country…even the poor ones on welfare…really don’t know what it is to go without. Sure, we may say “Poor me” cause we can’t eat out and have to pack a lunch for work…or we can’t go to Saltgrass and can only afford Taco Bell…or we are wearing clothes that we’ve had for years or bought at Goodwill when we’d rather have gone to the mall for clothes…but that isn’t REALLY being poor!!

My family were missionaries for 30+ years…in Mexico, Romania, and Peru. I have SEEN abject poverty. There was a family we used to visit in Mexico who lived in a corrugated tin shack that couldn’t have been more than 8’ x 12’ and there was a mom, dad, grandma, and at least 8 kids living there. I THINK they had an outhouse and there were a few scattered bits of someone’s castoffs scattered around the dirt by their house that the smaller kids played with, but that’s it. When we first went to Romania it was just over two years since the Revolution to throw out the Communist dictator…and while people were optimistic about the future, the lingering signs of a depressive/repressive regime were still to be seen everywhere. People still stood in bread lines and store shelves still sat more than half empty many times.

Suddenly even we…who while we had it hard at times in the US ourselves still seemed to depend on the availability of “necessities”…found ourselves without. Feminine hygiene products consisted of bags of cotton (like cotton balls, but in big clumps versus balls). Disposable diapers looked like giant sanitary napkins and were tied onto babies with sheets of plastic taking the place of plastic pants. Eggs could be scarce at times. Toilet paper was wound around without a cardboard tube, had no perforations, and was so rough that you could find wood chips in it the size of your pinkie finger sometimes!!

The most memorable thing about the lack of what we call necessities was the time my mom went to the store to buy some sugar. This wasn’t too long after we’d gotten there and while we’d somewhat adjusted to the lack of certain things, my mom certainly never thought about SUGAR as being something scarce!! After all, you go to the big supercenters here and they’ve got displays of bags of sugar fully 8 feet wide!! She asked the lady behind the counter for sugar and was incredulous to find out they had none. I think the lady felt sorry for her because she excused herself for a moment and came back with a tiny bag that had 3-4 tablespoons of sugar in it, tied tight shut with a rubber band. The lady took my mom’s hand and folded that little bag of sugar into it and whispered “Here, for your tea”!! She felt so sorry for the American that she actually parted with a bit from her own personal small stash to GIVE to my mom!!

All the above rambling just because I ran out of sugar for my tea? Well, yeah. But it does make you think, doesn’t it…about what even the poorest people take for granted in this country? I mean we are talking about SUGAR here!!

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