Fiona from St Chrysostom’s congregation gives a personal reflection on Buy Nothing Day, – an appropriate message for this time of the year
Did you know that 20% of the world’s population (in countries like the UK) consume over 80% of the earth’s resources? Not only is this an unfair distribution of wealth, but it carries with it a disproportionate level of environmental damage, and huge ethical responsibility.
‘Buy Nothing Day’ is a challenge to our lifestyle habits and behaviour, to be conscious of the choices we make. Do I really need the things I buy? What goes into the production of the things I buy?
I know I’m lucky. I have a stable job. I have enough money to buy what I need. I know there will be people reading this blog who don’t have work, or have work but still struggle to pay all the bills at the end of the month. As it turned out, ‘Buy Nothing Day’ had plenty to teach me.
The first challenge came before the day had even arrived, when I realised that I’d got an arrangement with a friend to meet for lunch on that day. A lot of my social life revolves around meeting people in other places, often travelling to get there. In this case, Liverpool. Realising I’d failed before I’d even begun, I could see that ‘Buy Nothing Day’ would have to be taken as an opportunity to examine my spending habits, rather than completely give up spending I thought at least I’d be sharing the train with lots of other people. What a great chance to spread the ‘Buy Nothing Day’ message!
Much as I love my friends, how could I be socialising with people closer to home? How well do I do know my neighbours? Not so well, as it happens. How can I find the potential friends in my street whom I haven’t even met yet?
To cheer myself up, I decorated my bag with printouts of ‘Buy Nothing Day’ posters and filled it up with apples to snack on, some dominoes and card games. I was ready.
Although I sat on the train with my ‘Buy Nothing Day’ poster bravely on display, nobody asked me about it, and I was too much of a coward to invite fellow passengers to play dominoes or cards.
So many of the conversations I have are for the sole purpose of buying things. “Can I have a tea please?” How can I invite others into conversation more?
Arriving in Liverpool early, I wondered how to spend the time without spending money. Here I was, in the heart of the city with STUFF everywhere and people around me spending like mad. I drifted up and down the street, looking in shop windows. It was hard to think about anything else.
To distract myself, I followed the sound of music, and found a busker with a violin. I put some money in his violin case and listened for a while, longer than I might have listened if I’d been shopping.
What other voices are out there on the streets, apart from the commercial ones, if I only listen to them? What can I see if I walk around looking elsewhere than in the shop windows? What does this suggest to me about the society I live in?
The happiest part of the day, was meeting my friend, and finding that, having no agenda of shopping, or cinema, I was free to listen to her for as long as it took, and we had the best time together we’d had in ages. Over soup, toast and houmous in an independent vegetarian café (another compromise) I was able to really relax into being with her, and I know that some of this space was created by not needing to go and spend money elsewhere.
Walking back to the station in the rain, I had the biggest ever craving for hot chocolate. Just because I couldn’t. Surely I wasn’t a treat addict? Was I?
How often do I ‘reward myself’ or ‘switch off’ feelings of discomfort by consuming?
Riding home, I spent some time praying and told God about the day and how it hadn’t been nearly as easy as I’d thought it would be to avoid spending. Leaving the debit card at home, and intentionally setting my steps in different directions had revealed some desires I usually prefer to keep hidden. God wasn’t so surprised, she knows me pretty well. I told her how things had felt a bit dark at the hot chocolate moment, and how glad I was to have my friend in my life.