Monday, 19 March 2012

It's All Relative

Today was Good Food Box day, something I usually write about at Aunt B on a Budget.  It’s here at B on Balance today because it’s got me thinking about gratitude, and about relative degrees of wealth.

Lately, I’ve been feeling kind of grumpy about our food.  Every time I open the fridge, I’m greeted by the same few vegetables.  Our budget demands that we eat whatever produce is most affordable, and that usually translates to what is seasonally available.  At the far end of winter here in Canada, that ain’t much.  Lots of root vegetables and cabbage in our diets these days.

Our monthly Good Food Box purchases provide most of our fresh vegetables.  These boxes provide tremendous value.  We purchased two of them this month.  The contents of one are pictured above.  For $20.00 we received ten pounds of potatoes, six pounds of carrots, ten pounds of onions, two heads of lettuce, two packages of snap peas, two bunches of celery, two heads of green cabbage, six pounds of apples, six pears, and twelve oranges.

My reaction to the contents?  I'm so tired of potatoes, carrots, and cabbage!  I would kill for some asparagus!  Some fresh rhubarb! 

I won’t pretend that this is admirable but it's how I've been feeling.  I’m a pretty good cook and open to new ideas.  I actively seek out new ways to prepare familiar ingredients.  But I’m bored.  I’m longing for the flavours of spring.  Local strawberries seem like a distant dream to me.  Boiled new potatoes with mint, sandwiches dressed with pea tendrils, Easter Egg radishes; I hunger for them all.  It's not what I sat down to write about though.  

This afternoon I came across a video about a man in India who, as the result of an encounter with a starving man, put aside his job and made feeding and caring for the less fortunate around him his life’s work.  I looked at some of the emaciated people in that short film and realized that there are a great many people would measure me as very wealthy indeed.

I have enough food to eat every day and it’s nutritious, tasty food at that.  An inconceivable number people are hungry.  Even within our community I know people for whom, for at least part of each month, a single bowl of canned soup and a tuna sandwich served at the food bank is the only meal of the day.

I have a roof over my head, and not just any roof.  My home is comfortable, warm, and even quite pretty.  I live in a safe neighbourhood, rich in trees and blessed with parkland, yet I know people right here in town who can barely manage the rent on a single room.  I know that my home is palatial compared to the shelters in which most of the world’s people spend their entire lives.

I have safe, clean drinking water piped directly into my home.  Increasingly, this is a luxury in much of the world.

I receive regular medical care; something denied to the majority of the world's population.

The realization of my comparative wealth is not new to me, nor am I saying a single thing that is new to any of my readers.  Why, then, am I writing this at all?

Because I needed the reminder.

It’s not wrong to long for the flavours of spring.  When they come, I’ll appreciate them all the more for having waited to taste them, but it’s important—no, essential—that I understand the worth of what I have.  In much of the world the contents of those Good Food Boxes would seem like an amazing blessing.  And they are.  And I need to remember that.

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