By Margaret-Anne Enders —
In our house, we recently celebrated a sunny fall Saturday with a garage sale. It felt so good to purge stuff from the house that I haven’t used in years. When I was doing the big clear-out, some items were easy to put into the get-rid-of pile, while others took a bit more deliberation. My grandmother’s linens and dishes fell into the latter category. While I haven’t used the delicate doilies, neatly pressed bridge cloths, and blue china soup tureens, they still provided a link to my history that was hard to sever. I have many antiques from my grandparents: the wooden rocking chair that Grandma Enders sat in to nurse my dad, Great-grandpa Malloch’s shaving stand from Scotland, Grandma Byers’ cedar chest. While I treasure these connections to my roots, I also have the sense that they tie me down. But when I think about getting rid of them to lighten my load of possessions, I feel anxious. Why am I worried about losing things when I already have so much?
On that same sunny Saturday, 20 million people were biding their time in refugee camps or in the midst of a dangerous journey, having fled their countries because of war, violence, and conflict. The worldwide refugee situation is at crisis proportions. In fact, this has been a crisis for many years; it just took a heart-breaking photo of a small boy on a beach to rouse the world’s compassion. Sorrow and outrage are strong, justifiable feelings, and inspire us to act, but after the matching donations are pledged and paid, what comes next? The refugees need homes. Yes, they also need medical care, safe living conditions, and nutritious food in the camps, but in the end, they need homes. And that is a tough step. Why is it that we can give money, but are hesitant to open up our country, our town, our neighbourhoods, even our homes to those whose greatest need is a home?
What is it that causes us to pull back from such great need? The answers are complex and include concerns about the economy’s ability to support more newcomers and a sense of fear about refugees’ customs and values. However, I think at least part of the answer lies in how we view our own situations: do we operate from a sense of scarcity or from a sense of abundance?
When people operate from a sense of scarcity, it doesn’t matter how much they have. There is still the anxiety that it is not enough.”
We live in a country of great wealth. It is true that not all are wealthy and that systems and policies make it very difficult for some to share in Canada’s economic benefits. However, many families have more than one car, more than one TV, computer, and cellphone. Many families live in houses that have more bedrooms than the number of people in the house, with 2, 3, and 4 bathrooms. Many families have travel trailers, mountain bikes, quads, and sleds. Many families are able to go on a holiday every year. Many have RRSPs and are saving for retirement. This certainly is wealth. The trouble is that many families also don’t see this as wealth. They feel stressed out by concerns about money, and may be loaded with debt. They perceive they are barely getting by.
A friend was recently telling me about one of the reasons she and her family left Ft. McMurray. She said there was a lot of pressure to keep up with the Joneses, to keep buying the newest and biggest of everything, and a sense of entitlement to having the biggest and the best. Perhaps the ambition to keep climbing the social ladder wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the accompanying consequence of attachment. The attachment that we have to things tends to make us needy and then greedy.
An attitude of abundance is characterized by a sense of gratitude for all that one has and a knowing that there is enough for all”
When people operate from a sense of scarcity, it doesn’t matter how much they have. There is still the anxiety that it is not enough. They live in a mindset where there are winners and losers, and if you don’t keep accumulating, you risk being on the losing end. That is what seems to be happening with the refugee situation. While Canada is not a perfect country, most of us have access to decent accommodations, clean water, sanitation, education, and recreational opportunities. Yet, there rises a fear that too many newcomers will take away what we have. Scarcity whispers that we don’t have enough to share.
An attitude of abundance is characterized by a sense of gratitude for all that one has and a knowing that there is enough for all. It leads to sharing because there is much to share. One of the side effects of an attitude of abundance is a feeling of positivity about the future. This doesn’t mean those who practice abundance are any financially richer than the scarcity folks. It also doesn’t mean they don’t plan for the future and just trust blindly that it will all be okay. Those who see abundance may be quite low-income or may have seven figure RRSPs. What they share is a sense that there is enough to go around and there is much to give.
The letting go of those prized possessions led to a sense of relief, a sense of freedom, and an opening of my heart”
And when there is much to give, that sense of anxiety, of neediness tends to loosen.
So how does all of this relate to my garage sale and my clinging to family antiques? I realize, with some discomfort, that my attachment was coming out of a mentality of scarcity, the opposite of the sense of abundance for which I strive. When I looked at a checklist of abundance and scarcity, I was disappointed to find I identified with many characteristics on the scarcity list. I still have a long way to go to a truly open heart. But the garage sale was a step in that journey of letting go of the attachment to stuff, to the fear of not having. I did not sell the furniture that is in constant use by my family, but I did part with dishes and doilies, aprons and pillowcases.
The letting go of those prized possessions led to a sense of relief, a sense of freedom, and an opening of my heart. It is the letting go of need and greed and the opening to the joys of abundance that will help us as a country and a community to open our doors, our wallets, our lives to those whose scarcity is real.
In her work with the Multicultural Program at Cariboo Mental Health Association, as well as in her life as a parent, partner, faithful seeker, left-leaning Christian, paddler, and gardener, Margaret-Anne Enders is thrilled to catch glimpses of the Divine in both the ordinary and the extraordinary. To find out more about the Women’s Spirituality Circle, call her at (250) 305-4426 or visit www.womenspiritualitycircle.wordpress.com or on Facebook at Women’s Spirituality Circle in Williams Lake.