Category Archives: Redistribution

SPACIOUS has launched

JUBILEE YEAR readers, I’m excited to share a new site with you.  I’ll be blogging there from now on.

And the site is the place to go to explore and imagine a bigger life, with more recess and fun, more adventure, and relationships of depth where you are known for who you are and celebrated.  It’s even a forum for asking life’s “What if?” questions.

We plan events; we consult on making your events and workplace more spacious; we write and speak.

SPACIOUS emerged out of a blogpost written on this site a year and a half ago. Read that story in Joey Katona’s biography on our site.

Check us out at: http://spacious.me, and send your friends too!

… and the rich get richer…

Let’s face it… most anyone with access to a computer is among the richest people in the world.  So just the fact that you are reading this qualifies you as privileged.  I know I am.

I have to admit that Psalm 16 is right when it says that “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.”  I whine way too much.  I complain and bemoan various things in my life… but I have a sweet life, a life that 99.9% of the world would want.  The problems I have can be classified as “rich people’s problems.”  And that’s why I’ve been writing this blog, or more accurately I’m writing the blog to hold myself accountable to my very real desire to examine my life, to become more grateful for it, to change it according to Jesus’ ways, according to the Old Testament jubilee principles fulfilled in Jesus’ new covenant for us.  I want to be part of redemptive efforts, if only in my own small ways, that His kingdom might come on earth as it is in heaven.

So I was doing one of my rich person activities recently, shopping at a Whole Foods store.  I could write multiple blog posts on that choice alone, for it is one fraught with ambivalence for me.  But let me just stick to this one story.

Last week I went to Whole Foods to buy groceries for several dinner parties I was having (batching them all together over several days so the flowers and food could do double-duty… thrifty huh?).  And the check-out woman rang up all my food (very slowly I might mention), bagged it all, and then she realized her computer wasn’t working right.  So she told me I’d have to wait a while as she rebooted and tried a few things.  She asked me if I was busy.  Have you ever heard an American say, “Heck no, I’ve got all day to wait here.”  My mouth said no.  My crossed arms told me (and her, probably) otherwise. Though I wasn’t all that busy or time-pressured, really.

Then she decided that the only proper way to pay me back for the loss of my extremely valuable (!?) time was to give me some free food.  Let me repeat that I already had a cart full of just what I “needed” (which is a spurious term in these circumstances anyway), and that included about 20 peaches.  But she insisted on giving me a new bag full of peaches, special “doughnut peaches.”

Which I told her would go to waste, which I told her I did not need, which I told her was unnecessary for I really didn’t deserve or require more food as a prize for waiting patiently.  But it only escalated.  She then insisted I should have some Odwalla juice for free.  I told her I don’t really drink juice, sticking generally to water or coffee (or margaritas, but that seemed excessive to report).  But she wouldn’t rest until she had given me a carton of freshly squeezed orange juice, which I don’t really love.  And then she wanted me to try it right then so I’d know how good it was.

Anyway, you get the point.  It was ridiculously excessive, born of the very reality that Americans can’t wait, don’t expect to, won’t do it patiently.  Is that it?  Is it really not an option for me to have to wait 15 minutes for the register’s computer to get fixed so I can pay for my expensive groceries and go home to prepare for my dinner party?

I guess what was hardest for me to think about is what would have happened if a hungry person walked into that store, looking bedraggled perhaps.  Would that person have had the option to say “Can I have a bag of fresh peaches and a carton of freshly-squeezed orange juice for free?  Just because I am hungry.”  Likely not.

But I got all that because I was deemed too important or busy to wait.  And then when I told a couple of people how much it had upset me, they said that they thought I should’ve gotten something free for my trouble.

It makes me rather sick.

Thanks for Sharing Your Mother

Raised in the south, our family employed a maid who came to work for us most weekdays to cook and clean and take care of my sister and me.  And she was one of the most important people in my life.

She died 5 years ago this week.  And I’m missing her mightily.

I’ve written about her a lot in my life, and I’ve written about the unique relationship between black maids and white children in the south.  And I wrote my Masters thesis on that topic.  It’s a complicated one, of course, and one that white girls really don’t know the half of.

But today it’s too tender to share or to give more words to.  What I do want to say today, on this particular blog, is that I benefitted from her care and love because her own children went without as much of her time and energy as they probably would have liked to have had, so that she could support them by taking care of me.

And I want to thank them.  So… “Mary and Howard, Mattie meant the world to me.  Thank you for sharing her.”

… And Mourning Jubilee

I found a lovely op-ed piece in the New York Times about a jubilee tide in Mobile Bay.  Here’s a snippet from author Ravi Howard:

“On a few nights each summer — no one knows precisely when — the waters of Mobile Bay push thousands of fish and crabs onto the shores around Daphne. Decaying leaves and sediment from the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta flow into the bay, lowering the water’s oxygen level. The fish stop swimming and float to the surface. Most of them end up on the beach, stunned but alive and ready to be harvested.”

Howard goes on to reflect on nature’s gift of free seafood: “The jubilee tide is communal: there’s more than enough for everyone. It’s what some French speakers on the Gulf might call a ‘lagniappe,’ something extra or unexpected, or in the case of the jubilee, pounds and pounds of something extra, free of charge, a reprieve from the cost of living.”

I should have given God credit for natural jubilee.  It’s not all up to us, is it?

Yet we all are grieving the fact that even nature’s laws and lagniappe are thwarted by our habits and addictions, by our greed and hubris.

Even as we live in the hope of the eventual new heavens and new earth.  Come Lord Jesus.

Who Had the Land 50 Years Ago? Redlining and Discrimination

If the ultimate biblical jubilee meant that the land was restored every 50 (or 49) years to its original owners, wouldn’t it be an interesting modern-day custom?  I’d love to know what my street would have looked like 50 years ago.  Or any section of Washington, D.C. where I live.

D.C. had 25% more people in 1960 than it does today.  White flight seems to be part of that though there is now a trend towards whites moving back into the city this last decade.

But I wonder what the city was like in 1960 when I was born.  Who lived where?  What was it like?

The practice of redlining was something I hadn’t been aware of before.  White cluelessness is a disease I have.  There is so much I never knew.  “Redlining” is the practice of delineating certain areas of a city (by marking a map with red lines) wherein services such as banking, loans, insurance, access to jobs and perhaps even supermarkets are denied to those living there.  The term later came to be applied to such discrimination beyond geographical boundaries, racially or based on gender.

Though the term wasn’t coined until 1968, the practice was happening as early as the 1930’s with the Fair Housing Act designating some neighborhoods (mostly inner-city black areas) as ineligible for mortgage capital.  These decisions and practices were based on assumptions and not fact about the families’ financial situations or character.

Restrictive covenants in white neighborhoods also sought to keep black families out.  Thus blacks were effectively left out of the home ownership realm altogether in many cases, with the blame for this falling on individuals and institutions.

In my own city, with historically one of the highest percentages of black residents and also one of the greatest disparities between rich and poor, patterns of home ownership would be an interesting thing to look at — as well as to consider gentrification’s effects on neighborhoods, for simply owning a home, or squatting in it, doesn’t mean that conditions are livable, that life is okay.

What’s the truth about housing laws and practices, about city planning and urbanization?  I know so little.

What would it look like to redress wrongs of the past?

Everything Has an Impact; I am what I Eat

This is a vulnerable post to write.  And I’m not a big fan of super-intimate, public confession.  Yet for the sake of accountability, which is a big part of what my Jubilee Year project is about, I need to talk about this.

It’s really not right to say that my consumption is a private matter.  I’m talking about food.  I’ve certainly been paying more attention lately to what I eat, where it comes from, the cost of producing it, the cost of transporting it, the ethical side of the purveyors thereof.  I’m making some small changes as a result.

Yet I also need to think more about how much I eat.  Today I am looking over our family budget, paying some attention to where we spend excessively (probably almost everywhere, truth be told), where we downright throw money away (usually because I’ve used my time poorly and use money to get out of a mess I’ve created   (“Oops, no time to make dinner; grab takeout” being the most common version of this tendency).

And as I look at the budget I see two things.  First, I spend more money than anyone else in my family on clothes.  And this is convicting in that I consider myself really “low maintenance” and often brag (to my family’s consternation) over my thrift store finds.  I have a bit (okay a lot) of (apparently falsely placed) pride over being low maintenance, not falling prey to trends, not needing to waste a bunch of money on excessive clothing.  Only I’m the one spending the money on clothes. And the only reason for that is that my weight fluctuates a lot, and I therefore regularly buy clothes — inexpensive ones, mind you, but frequent purchases that add up.

I struggle with maintaining a healthy weight, and yet the extra money spent on my clothes is a pretty big chunk.  And that’s money that could be spent on something better, on someone else, on some of the problems of the world that I regularly bemoan.

And the second thing I discovered is that I spend a lot of money on restaurants.  I knew that.  But I didn’t know quite how much, and you’re not going to find out either (someone would have to lock me up or lecture me).  But the bottom line is that as fun as it is to eat out, as much of a bonding experience as it is to meet a friend or go out with my family, the bonding could happen just as easily at a cheap joint or at a coffee shop or on a hiking trail even (imagine an outing without food!). And yet I spend money in restaurants, even as I try each day to adhere to a limited calorie diet.  I’m shooting myself in the foot — or in the gut.

Ah inconsistency.  You are my constant companion.

Weight problem + restaurant meals = excessive consumption (food and money) that is then exacerbated by the need to spend more money on doctors + medicine + new clothes.

I am what I eat.  I am a product of where I eat it and how much it costs and of the chain reaction set off by the choices I make.  My choices have an impact on others and on the world.  More resources for me = less resources for someone else.

I’m not a math whiz but I do see some opportunities for “new math” (< for me = > for someone else; < less directed to my girth = > for my brain and heart to direct elsewhere).

Accountability is hard.

Seeds of Peace Yield Much More

Think about the resources you have as they relate to this quote:

“I’m not saying that $20,000 over four years isn’t a lot of money – it is – but my life is going to be the same without that money, and her life is going to be very different with that money,” he said. “So why not give her a chance?”

What is the amount of money that you (or I) have that wouldn’t hurt us to part with but that would significantly help someone else?  And why don’t we part with it?

I came across a story that I love.  A young man from Los Angeles from a liberal Jewish home met a Palestinian Arab friend at a summer camp for kids in Maine.  Seeds of Peace runs this camp and is an organization devoted to “youth from clashing cultures coming together in a mediated effort to find common ground.”

The two were roommates and the American boy, Joey Katona, decided to fundraise so that he could insure that his Palestinian friend, Omar Dreidi, would have the same advantage he had of having a college education.

Read the story (which has been everywhere these last four years since the young men started college) and think about what you can do to spread what you have.   I’m convicted by this story.