Saturday, April 19, 2008
Wandering through the grocery store in the hour and a half break between two scheduled music practices today, I had $7.94 in my pocket. The credit card company has frozen my card because I can’t seem to convince them that I’ve moved, and I haven’t received a bill in months. It’s hard to pay a bill you never receive. And I’ve lost my bank card somewhere in the chaos of mountains of boxes, scattered tools and disorganized heaps that is my home, awaiting kitchen cabinets on Monday. I didn’t notice it wasn’t in my wallet until I left the house last night with friends, to go see La Vie En Rose, and stopped by the bank for some cash to pay for my ticket. I no doubt took it out of a pocket and set it somewhere and it’s had stuff piled on top of it. My friends are good friends – they loaned me $20. Enough for a ticket and a glass or 2 of wine @ the after show schmooze @ a local bistro. There’s money in the bank. I just can’t get to it till Monday. So today before leaving for the nearby town where my music rehearsals were, I emptied the pockets of all my jackets, dirty jeans and purses, raided the junk drawer in the dresser @ the front entry, and came up with $7.94 in coins, for lunch.
Things are expensive in Northern Alberta. $7.94 doesn’t go far. I’d forgotten what it was like, carefully checking prices and totaling things in my head, balancing the virtues of this against that. Odd how ‘normal’ changes in one’s life, without notice. It’s only during the last four years of my life that pennies haven’t had to be counted and re-counted and creatively coaxed to purchase more than would seem possible. But I’d already forgotten what it was like. A lifetime of frugal fretting was erased by 4 years of having just a little more than the minimal requirements. And I got to thinking that my meagre $7.94 is more than a goodly percentage of the world has at its disposal for lunch today. In the leanest of the lean years, when, by national standards we lived well below the “poverty line”, my children ate all the good food they needed, even if it was home baked beans for a steady week. They always had a safe, warm, dry place to come home to after school. And, lean as those times were, there was a way, with hard work, patience, and determination, for us to own a home. It wasn’t much more than a shack when we got it, but by the time it was sold, it had been transformed into a lovely home.
And I stood in the produce department looking around me, thinking…… that’s why we are here. That’s why my grandfathers, and my grandmothers' parents came here from Sweden and Norway. Canada was, and still is, the land of opportunity. And it’s true of the blonde woman with the small child in her cart, and the asian woman filling a bag with vegetables, and the black woman carrying her basket past me, and it’s true of our indigenous peoples. Though last night’s storm dumped a couple of inches on the tulips sprouting from the frozen earth, though nothing has grown here in 7 or 8 months, we’re eating fresh produce, brought here at enormous financial and environmental cost, just because we can. Because we’re so incredibly wealthy. And we don’t even know it. We take it all for granted.
This is no new realization. I’ve ranted on the same theme for years. But this afternoon it was somehow physical knowledge. It hit me somewhere in the neighborhood of my stomach and made me feel a little sick. The unfairness of life. The thoughtless greed of the society I live in…. the cost of our greed to voiceless people around the world.... another familiar rant. And I can’t change them. But I can change me. And it’s time.