Bikinis, Poverty and Politics

elephant-bikiniIt’s January and almost “spring-like” here in Texas.  Global warming at its’ best, I guess.   I don’t know about you but what do I do when the sky turns bright blue, birds start singing and it’s warm enough to just sit outside and feel the sun on my face?

Shop for bikinis.

I love the beach and I can’t seem to go a season without adding at least one new bathing suit to my collection; which is actually hilarious considering we spend about a week at the beach each year.  Sometimes two, if I’m really lucky.  I mean, we do live in Texas so it’s hot enough to live in them most of the year but that really doesn’t look appropriate at Walmart no matter what people may think (or do). So having a couple of drawers full of bikinis isn’t all that logical.

It doesn’t seem to matter though.  I had an email this morning advertising the new spring collection   from one of my favorite “beach style” stores and had 3 suits in my shopping bag in just about 5 minutes flat.  They’re so cute! Then I started scrolling through all the dresses and shirts and shorts. A TON of them!  And I had the familiar thought that I have whenever I walk through a mall.

How do we consume so many things?

I mean seriously?  Do you know anyone that would go naked if they didn’t buy new outfits this spring?   What happens to all the clothes that aren’t purchased?   How do companies make money having such huge quantities of garments made? Is someone on the other side of the world working 15 hour days for five dollars a week so that I can buy a shirt for $12?

Sometimes I’m astounded at my inability to be content and my ability to want so much stuff.  And that’s what it is – stuff.  I know I don’t need it because I travelled Italy for almost 14 days with what would fit in a backpack and didn’t miss a thing.  But suddenly I’m at home in my chair or walking around a store and I need that new boho shirt or my life will not be complete.

So frustrating!

We have a major problem with poverty in our own country not to mention the rest of the world. Could that change? Is it completely out of the realm of possibility?   If all of us cut back on our stuff and cared a little more about the hurting people around the world, our one little country could go a long way in alleviating hunger and disease. Unfortunately, I think it’s a pipe dream.

I’ve read that 1% of our National Gross Product could wipe out poverty in our country. Let’s just say that 2% would put a major dent in the problem throughout the whole world.  That’s astounding.

But before some of you freak out on me, I’m not a socialist.     I respect quite a few intelligent people who stand strongly in that camp but it bothers me.  I don’t believe government should have as much control in our lives as socialist would like.  Frankly, our government (most I’d say) tends to do a wonderful job at screwing things up and efficiency is not a word that would describe them.  Not to mention the question of where government’s power should stop and how, exactly, you can stop it once that train has left the station.  If I disagree with something morally, should I have to contribute to it? Where does the concept of responsibility and self-respect fit in when people become convinced that they “deserve” things?  Anyway, I realize it’s an ideological thing and we aren’t going to change one another’s minds but I do hope we can agree on one thing.

Compassion and generosity reveals the best in humanity.

When we become hateful, greedy or murderous, I believe we lose the very essence of what it means to be human.  And when we forget that “But for the grace of God go I,” we set ourselves up to become the very thing we ignore or look down on.

As much as Christianity has gotten a bad rap in our country over the last 60 years (much of that being deserved, unfortunately) it really is a beautiful faith.  Some of the core values of Christ’s teachings were taking care of orphans and widows, protecting the helpless, fighting injustice, feeding the poor, sacrificing oneself for the good of others…. really beautiful.  For those who have difficulty reading or understanding the Old Testament, rest assured that these concepts are consistent there as well. Maybe more so. The heart of God is clearly for the hurting, the powerless, the helpless, the broken and the lost.  All I can say to that is Praise God!

The question is, how are we doing at living that out?

Not very well I would say.

It’s so easy to be drawn into a life of materialism.  I’m speaking to myself as much as anyone.  I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with being blessed with money and enjoying life.  I do believe there’s something wrong when we can’t part with it to do the things God has called us to do without throwing a temper tantrum and basically saying “Mine, mine, mine!”  If people were to discover that part of their purpose in life is to care for the poor and helpless with the resources God has funneled through them we wouldn’t have a need for the political debates and policies.  What if every person in the country decided, I’m giving 2% of my income to help with this issue? What if we didn’t wait for the government to tell us we had to do it only to watch them waste 1% of it on the red tape of bureaucracy? Two percent a year could come down to nothing more than one less cappuccino a day for a year.  Or not buying that pair of $200 shoes.  I don’t know.  But I don’t think it would be as devastating as watching your child die from a disease that can be cured with a pill that we can get anywhere.

I realize that this whole conversation is big and complex and I could never come close to doing it justice but we have to start talking about these kinds of issues instead of just yelling at one another from across the political lines.  If we have the capability to put a computer in everyone’s hands in the form of a phone, send men into outer space for a year and transplant a heart from one person to another,  we have the capability of compromising and coming up with solutions to the worlds problems.

Well, if we wanted to we could.  But like our need for stuff, I’m afraid we also have a need to be right, to hate and to be in control.

But I have to do something.  So, what?

Maybe I won’t buy 5 more bikinis.  Maybe just 1.

Maybe I’ll sell the stuff I hardly ever use and give the money to someone who needs it, or just give it to people that could use it. Maybe I’ll cut back on what I spend so that I can give more. Maybe I’ll learn to be content with less than I’ve been told I need. Maybe I’ll plug into an organization that addresses the needs of the hungry, or the poor or the trafficked -and invest in it with not only money but time. Maybe I’ll find common ground with those who are politically opposite of me and try to have positive conversations instead of hateful negative ones.

Whatever it is, I can’t allow myself to ignore the suffering in the world. I can’t get overwhelmed. I can’t stop.

I can give, encourage and believe.

I can pray and start doing something…anything…that breaks me out of this never ending black hole of greed, selfishness and pride.  It’s really not all about me.  It’s not about you either.


I know that’s blunt but none of us are more than a flash in the scheme of history.   It’s not about fame or fortune either.

Life is about love and we really aren’t living until we get out of our own way and learn to do so with abandon.  Even loving those who hate us and those who disagree with us.

It’s a conversation worth having.  Maybe we could meet on the beach in a few months and talk about it.  I’ll wear my suit from last year.





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