“LIVE BELOW THE LINE” was scrawled in Collin’s handwriting on our kitchen chalkboard when I stumbled down the steps bleary-eyed and half awake. “Today’s the day! We’re doing this. Sen and Junes were all in for starting today.”
Cue the legendary scene from A Christmas Story when Ralphie says “OH, FUUUUUUUUUUUDGE” in slow motion.
Now, to be clear, this was actually my idea born from a homework assignment from one of the nonviolence classes I’m taking with Rivera Sun and Veronica Pelacaric. Like a lot of awesome ideas in our family, I think of them, but Collin actually commits to them. And I’m actually really glad we are doing it. It just took a couple cups of coffee (which cost $0.50 of my personal daily allowance) to remember that this was a good idea.
Fun Fact: Becoming vegetarians is another one of my great ideas. I pronounced myself a vegan on a whim 15 years ago, Collin said “lemme finish this 2 pound bacon cheeseburger and then I’m in.” And then he was doing all the research on why environmentally, ethically, socially, etc etc etc it made sense to be vegans (I’ve managed to wiggle the “etati” back into our lifestyle) forever.
So, what is “the line?”
“The line” is the universal measure to determine extreme poverty. According to data from the World Bank, 10% of people worldwide live on $1.90 per day or less. So, our family decided that we will commit one day a week to eating below this line.
Now, we aren’t able to truly embody the experience of the 734 million people who are living in extreme poverty. The home we have, the clothes we wear, the toothpaste we use, the clean, safe water that comes right from our sink–all of these luxuries are the context of our life. That $1.90 per day is what a person living in extreme poverty has to work with for not only food, but also housing accommodation, medicine, transportation, clothing—everything. And it’s not just a day a week that they opt into; it’s the context of their lives caused by others’ greed and injustice.
So, I acknowledge the limitations of this small action, but it’s a step that we can take as a family to
*develop empathy and connect with other people’s experiences—people who were born without the privileges that we’ve always had.
*redistribute some of our resources to others who live in extreme poverty
*connect with what it means to live more simply: practicing how not to indulge every impulse and, in so doing, defy the monster of greed by exercising the muscles of self-discipline
*raise some awareness as I report about our on-going experience doing this
So, we did the math and have adjusted our monthly food budget accordingly, and Senya and Juniper will choose where and how we more justly reallocate the savings. It may be a hunger relief org, like this https://www.thp.org/to-end-world-hunger-weneedwho/. Or it may be another justice-oriented org of their own interest.
Already this has sparked some great conversations about the hidden injustices that can often be part of food production and transportation worldwide.
Some people think kids can’t handle these types of conversations, that is not the case in this home. Senya is a highly sensitive kid, and she has—not only been able to handle these conversations—but has wanted to know the truth as best as we can give it to her. Coupling the truth with activism is key, though. Informing people about injustice and then giving them tools to help create a more peaceful and equitable world actually gives people purpose, meaning, and empathy.
Senya, after some discussion, said “Just like the FDA is required to label the food ingredients, corporations should be required to list the social ingredients that go into food.” I agree, Senya.
Anyway, that’s basically all I’ve got for now because I’m so spacey I can barely think. If you’d like more info on world hunger and poverty go here: https://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview
To watch Hugh Jackman give an inspiring little blip about living below the line, go here:
To find out more about the brands you purchase (some of the info that Senya thinks should go on the food labels), go here: https://www.behindthebrands.org/brands/
To find out more about Nonviolence and the classes being offered by Pace e Bene (an organization that Col and I love) go here: https://paceebene.org/events
“Live Simply So Others May Simply Live.” -Mahatma Ghandi