At my parents home in India, a simple everyday meal usually consists of at least 6 items – lentils, legumes, salad, green veggies, chappatis and rice. If there are guests, extra vegetables and small snack type foods are added in. All of it is coordinated to be not only visually appealing but also presented with an eye to texture and flavor; if there is one gravy vegetable, the other should be dry. My mother is appalled that on busy weekdays, I feed my family only two of the items she would consider essential for an everyday meal – rice and lentils. If there is time, there might be a vegetable. But that’s pretty much it, and for my family, it’s delicious food; for me it is nutritious and filling. But it is definitely not special, it’s ordinary. Sometimes we have unexpected guests; the same food is offered to them – rice and lentils – and they see it not only as delicious, but something more – they see it as abundant. What is ordinary for my mother, appears abundant to me; what is ordinary for me, is sparse to my mother, but appears abundant to my guests. Abundant on many levels – quantity, quality, flavor, and satisfaction.
On a Friday evening in October, I ran the first of two workshop for our 5th graders as part of their Rite of Passage program. The initial activity focused on values clarification. I ran a “values auction” inviting the children and their parents to bid on” values” with play money. They could bid in multiples of 20 and their task was to make sure they won the values that really mattered to them. They also had to make their bidding decisions not as individuals, but as a group. This year, as happens every year, a pattern quickly emerged – values that reflect material goods rarely get bid on, but the values that reflect intangible, unquantifiable values such as relationships or success get higher bids. So for instance, the value “having money and buying nice clothes” does not get a bid, but the value of “having a best friend” or “having a close relationship with my family” gets a fairly high bid. Why this difference?
Year after year it strikes me that the values that reflect much of what we take for granted (such as money and clothes) are not bid on. Best friends and family relationships on the other hand are not as easily quantified, and are often subject to shifts, some of which might be beyond our control or comprehension. Both for values that we might bid on at a Friday night workshop, or the food we eat at a friends’s house, is it our familiarity and accessibility that makes us view what is in front of us as not particularly abundant and therefore not of value? Could it be that our view of abundance shifts based on what is familiar, common and easily accessible?
How can we shift our lens so that we see what is familiar, everyday, easily accessible as abundant? Is it even worth it to do so? What benefits might it have?
As always, I have more questions than answers, and would love to hear from you, either here in the comments section or by email.
Wishing you simply abundant days.