Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Real Toys

I am on a seemingly constant quest to rid our house of "junk" toys. I don't think I ever realized how utterly plastic our world has become until I had children. It seems everywhere you turn there's a game or toy that will supposedly help your child to grow and learn all these wonderful skills and attributes. My only question is, what did children do before all of these toys and gadgets? Gee, they must have been awfully deprived.

This whole toy issue thing is quite often on my mind, so as part of my exploration of it, I recently asked my grandfather what kind of toys his brothers and sisters played with when he was growing up. He said, "None. We didn't have any. We grew up in the Depression." Yet my grandfathter is a kind, loving, compassionate, intelligent man... certainly not deprived of any necessary skills for life.

I consider myself to be someone who strives to live a simple life, and I know quite well that marketing tools are aimed at creating a false sense of need in us in order to get us to buy more stuff. However, I must admit that there are times when I wonder if I am depriving my son by limiting his toys. Isn't it amazing how powerful these marketing moguls can be, that although I don't even have a television spewing out commercial advertisements at me, I'm still impacted by them? We are surrounded by such a culture of excess that it is difficult to escape its lures.

But one thing definitely sticks out the most in my own childhood memories. And, believe it or not, it's not the Cabbage Patch doll! To this day, I can remember my secret, special spot. Whenever I wanted to be alone or to find quiet time, I would go to an area of my parents' yard where no one could see me, and I would just sit and close my eyes and simply be. Or I would go outside at night and sit on the stoop by our garage and look up at the stars in the sky and be filled with peace and wonder. Another joy was crawling in a small space in the back of one of our coat closets where no one could see me.... Or creating a tent out of bedsheets and blankets, a house out of a cardboard box.... Sneaking books under my pillow at night so I could wake up and read by the moonlight. No toys, no plastic, no flashing lights.

So when thinking about what my little boys "need" in order to grow into the men God created them to be, I keep reminding myself that it is all pretty simple. Time to explore the natural world, time to to create, time to play, time to simply "be." Sometimes I think we make things more complicated than they have to be.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


So we recently went on a trip up to Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY. It is a wonderful organization that rescues abused farm animals and works to educate people about their plight. I have visited there on a few other occasions throughout the years. However, this year's visit was especially meaningful to me because it was the first time my husband and my children were there.

It was such a wonderful feeling to be in a place where animals are treated with love and respect. And to see my oldest son hugging and feeding the animals and leaping around them with squeals of happiness brought me the joy of all joys. It also gave even more confirmation that God intended for us to have communion with the animals. God calls us to be as the little children. If children are so naturally drawn to love animals, to feel joy in their presence, shouldn't we as well?

While our visit there was short, I left feeling refreshed and renewed knowing that there are others who feel the same way about God's creatures. Farm Sanctuary is not only a sanctuary for animals, but for people too.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

One Dollar Diet Project

But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.
- Mark 10:31

We are called to give to the poor, and to not store up treasures on earth. However, the way of life of many of us in the United States is a far cry from this. Modern commercialism has led us to have a distorted perception of our needs and our wants. Electronic gadgets, televisions, cars, and toys overflow the closets and rooms of many. When we open our refrigerators, we have so many options for meals that it's common for food to actually go to waste. Meanwhile, more than 1 BILLION people live on just one dollar or less per day.

Two social justice teachers have started the One Dollar Diet Project during which they will each eat on a food budget of $1 per day. I'm very interested in following their project and how the experience goes for them. While my family lives simply in comparison to modern standards, we manage to make a mortgage payment, and we're certainly not starving. I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to struggle to get by on just $1 a day.

It is making me think again about how I could simplify more, and give more. But perhaps it also goes deeper than simply giving money to the poor. Perhaps it is rooted more in our worldview that we all have a right to have more, more, more. It is a sad world we live in... the disparities between the "haves" and the "have-nots" seem to be growing and growing. And in this world it is not uncommon for there to be one person living on billions of dollars while billions of people are living on one dollar? I thank God that we have hope for a world transfigured... where there will be no more sorrow... and where, finally, the last shall be first.