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The Return of Special

March 27, 2015

When you were a kid, did you ever have a friend or relative come back from a trip abroad bearing special gifts that you could only buy in that country?  I can remember an aunt bringing back cute chinese pyjamas from Hong Kong, and a school friend bringing over terrible American chocolate.

It’s weird to me that we don’t need people to do that anymore. When I travel I stand in the gift shop wondering what on earth I could buy that I couldn’t get at home. If we can’t find something in our hyper-sized supermarkets, we can order it on the internet and get it delivered to our front door. I know that’s what’s known as progress and globalisation but there’s something sad about it too. Everything is available to me right now if I have the money, but I don’t think it makes life better.

Tonight, for dinner, I could eat Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Italian, French, Argentinian, Vietnamese… either in a restaurant or in my own kitchen with the appropriate specialist ingredients (this is especially easy in big cities). Everything is an option. Does that make our lives richer, or poorer?

What makes something feel special if it’s always available? What makes it feel like a meaningful gift, or a treat? When every practical limit on our consumption is being eliminated, the price tag is really the only one left.

We wrestle with that question as a family, because we miss ‘special’. Life with God involves a rhythm of sacrifice and celebration, fasting and feasting. Without one side you lose the other (and I really don’t want to miss out on the parties). Alongside that, we believe that the level of consumption that has become normal here in the UK is totally unsustainable for the planet. We don’t think it’s the best way to live – for the planet, for our own happiness, or even for our relationships. Something has to change, and really the only place to start is with ourselves. Yet it’s so hard to work out how to live a different way when no one is imposing any limits. (No government is brave enough, because their popularity would probably plummet).

So we try to find our own. To choose to scale back on things on a day to day basis, even if it seems like a small thing. We try to only eat meat at the weekends. We don’t tend to buy wine or alcohol unless we have guests, and we stick to water the rest of the time. I don’t buy coffee on my way to work, and try to make a packed lunch. We rarely buy new clothes, and generally limit ourselves to second-hand or Fairtrade. We’re trying to holiday in the UK. If we need something (especially the baby-related kit) we try to find it from friends on Facebook, or on Streetbank from our neighbours, or Gumtree. The next big question is our rubbish. We’re so used to just throwing stuff ‘away’ without thinking about where it ends up. How do we limit the amount we send out of our flat in bin-bags?

It’s not that we never drink wine, or go out for coffee or dinner, or buy a new coat. But those things have become special again because of their rarity. Limits can be a beautiful thing that enrich life rather than withholding it.

I wonder if there are things in your life that used to feel special which have become normal? (Coffee to go, wine, a Twix with your morning cuppa). Why don’t you try an experiment? Could you think of a way to scale back, even for a week or two, and then at the end treat yourself to the thing you’ve been cutting out, and try to savour and celebrate it as something special. I recommend doing it in community! If, like us, you appreciate that rhythm and the way it helps you to live more simply, maybe you could think of ways to reintroduce that rhythm to other parts of life.

This guest post was written by Jenny Flannagan. She has an excellent blog called ‘Jenny from the Block‘ which we highly recommend as a regular read. This post was originally written for Tearfund’s Rhythms website.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. mr howff permalink
    April 14, 2015 2:31 pm

    a very good point! :o)

  2. May 25, 2015 6:15 am

    If this downside takes 2 hours to resolve, after which all
    the pieces is OK again, than the service level has declined by X-percent.


  1. Overflowing Abundance | Breathe

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