Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Scarcity and Abundance; Dreams and Reality: A Midlife Reflection

Over the past year, I have been doing a lot of reflection on scarcity and abundance, doing what I love and doing what I have to do.  Can I make money doing the things I am good at doing, the things my education and experience have shaped me to do?  I think this article from December 2013 captures well some of my own feelings and reflections.  The article discusses the choice made by two people out of college - one to pursue calling and one to pursue money.  I want to believe that we can have both and yet my experience is that I choose calling and have followed calling and yet the result of that has been a constant struggle financially.  Now I want to be financially stable, I want a few nice things in life.  I want to provide a life of financial security for my family. So I find myself asking the question how do I make money given my education and work history.

I have also been reflecting on the experience of scarcity, both real and imagined.  Over the past year I have experienced real moments of scarcity.  Real moments of how am I going to survive this?  All the things about short term thinking, making short term decisions without looking at the long haul are true.  Yet the culture assumes that if we change the thinking we will change the circumstances. So we think the poor make poor choices so let's have them make different choices.  Yet if we have done nothing to address their scarcity, the very real reality of scarcity in their lives, the very real lack of options and choices then all they are left with is making decisions to get through the current moment.  If there is not enough money for rent and food, there also won't be any money to save. Telling a poor person "to pay themselves first" a common piece of advice from financial gurus is ridiculous.  Saving cannot be the priority when food and shelter are at risk.  When you live with scarcity and survival mode long enough, it just becomes your default even if the situation doesn't warrant it.

So what about dreams and doing what you love.  I think this article capture well the falseness of these claims.  We can't all do what we love and sometimes dreams die.  I know I was raised with the belief that I could do whatever I want.  No I couldn't and as I get older the options for what I can do become even fewer. I have made choices, some beautiful and amazing choices that I wouldn't change for the world, and some that I might like an opportunity to do differently yet for better or for worse they are the choices I have made.  The questions now are what are my options, given my life circumstances, my skills, my education and from that what can I create.

Some have followed all the rules, did all the right things and are now among the used to haves.  How many used to haves are in our faith communities?  How many are hiding in plain site among us? We don't talk much about these people. College educated, corporate experience that are now discarded, barely making it.  We talk about the 1% and we talk about the poor.  What about these people?  As a white educated person from an upper middle class upbringing, their stories scare me the most.  This isn't supposed to happen to people like me.  Are they hiding in our UU congregations?  Do they include our ministers or religious educators?  Do we know their stories? Is shame and anger keeping them away?  They too live with scarcity coupled with the knowledge that they once had abundance - maybe not 1% abundance but abundance.

What are your experiences of scarcity and abundance?  What dreams have you had to let die?  How did you move forward?  Do you know a story of "used to have"?   Which roommate are you - looking for meaning in mid-life or looking for financial security? 

Can we break our silence so we can make true one of the affirmations of our UU faith - 
"you don't have to do it alone"?