“It was considered unpatriotic to hoard food.”
It really struck me when my mother shared this memory from when she was a child during World War II. The war was an occasion for real soul-searching. Who am I, anyway? How is my life intertwined with that of others? How am I called to think of them and serve them?
A time of crisis is a time to redouble our efforts to be good human persons. Virtue is always excellence of human life; this becomes especially apparent in a time of crisis.
This is a time to practice looking to the common good more intentionally and more concretely. How can I serve? How can I help my community weather this challenge?
It’s rather dramatic to picture oneself standing at a shelf where there IS canned food, and choosing not to buy more than I’ll reasonably need in the near future. For the sake of others.
The different circumstances of life provide distinct and unique opportunities for growing into the people we should be. For many people—especially the young, the Corona Virus crisis is a first and perhaps unique opportunity.
All of a sudden what’s happening in social media, entertainment, social life, sports, etc. grows less important. The hierarchy of goods makes itself known with more urgency than usual. The real needs of other people, and of the broader community, can come into clearer focus—even if we’re not sure exactly what to do.
Let’s leave aside questions of just how bad a health crisis COVID-19 is or not, and whether leaders in politics and industry are responding with courage and prudence or are capitalizing for political or economic gain. Two facts are clear: there is at least some real danger to public health, especially the weak and vulnerable, and there is now also a real economic threat, if not even a threat to social stability.
In the end, how I respond as an individual—which is always in my power—will necessarily make a real difference. First, through my good response I accept the gift of this opportunity to become the person I should be. Second, I do my part for the greater common good. And perhaps my effort—-united to that of others of good will—-will actually succeed in making a dramatic public difference.
So we can start by taking a beautifully human stance and ask: how can my actions serve the good of others—beginning with those proximate to me, and expanding to the broader community? Food is of course one flash-point. Here are two concrete suggestions.
1. Distinguish prudent stocking-up and hoarding. The distinction might be hard to discern, but it is certainly there. Some things stand out as unacceptable:
–excessive gathering of perishables that leads to waste
–gathering supplies from a public source for my long-term security in a manner that threatens the short-term needs of others
–gathering for my unnecessary comfort or pleasure supplies that could have served the basic needs of others.
2. Plant a garden. Now is the time to plant. This is serious. Being more self-sufficient is a means of serving the common good and of being generous. It is unnatural and dangerous to the social order that as a people we are so dependent for food on a supply-chain that has obvious vulnerabilities. Just think what a difference it would be if a critical mass of households all across the middle and south of our nation already had their spring greens and root vegetables growing today! We are blessed that spring is coming now for all of us.
The term ‘gardening’ sounds like the name of a hobby. Providing for the most basic human need by the work of our hands and the fruitfulness of earth is not simply a hobby. It’s simple good sense.
Days of crisis can call us back to what we can and should already be doing. This is a time for cultivation: for growing food for our bodies, in various ways available to us, and most importantly for cultivating the inner dispositions that make us more human and bring us together with others. Especially in a time of crisis.
Here is a link to a series I did on Why Everyone Should Garden.
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