A Place At The Table

I have a feeling that when people see or hear that we don’t own a car, they get the wrong impression.  I can see the gears turn in their head, and the comments they make, leave me to believe that we easily get labeled as the next self – righteous hipster couple.  Bikes are cool, especially this one, but we are not.

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What people don’t know is the journey we have been on the last four years.  They don’t know that we love people, and hate war, and those two passions are deeply connected to our decision to live car free.  They don’t know that we believe refusing to purchase oil, on a weekly basis, is our tangible way of loving our neighbors half way across the world.  It is our tangible way of saying that our comfort and lifestyle is never ever worth innocent lives.  They don’t know that while my husband has a great job, we have an insane amount of school debt, and a year ago we were hundreds of dollars short, every single month.  We were in a real financial crisis.  I am not talking about a first world crisis that translates to, I can’t afford an iPhone. I mean the kind of struggle that results in our family and friends bringing us groceries, buying our daughter the next size up in cloth diapers, and simply giving us their own hard-earned money, or else we would not have paid our bills.  I don’t say this for any pity, because I believe I am blessed beyond measure, and in every struggle there is growth.  I say this express how dangerous assumptions are.

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When people tell us that living car free with a child is unsafe, irresponsible, not practical, or egotistical, first it makes me want to cry, and then it makes me want to scream.  Since when did living within our means become irresponsible?  When did choosing to fill our bodies with good nutritious food, rather than fill our gas tank become backwards?  When did a bicycle become so unsafe, when cars kills thousands of people each year? When did caring about the air my future grandchildren breathe make me a crazy hippy?  How does living without a hunk of metal take away my husbands manhood?

Christopher and I both thrive off of questioning social norms.  This makes being married and trying new things, fairly easy for us.  On our own unique journey we were both deeply convicted about the American lifestyle, specifically the obsession and reliance on the automobile.  This internal struggle only got stronger and louder until one day we couldn’t ignore it, and then one day we couldn’t afford it.  Ironically, our car payment, gas, and insurance was exactly amount of money we were short each month, but even a car paid in full costs $9,000 a year to maintain.  So, I was praying relentlessly for God to provide,  to take us out of Casper, and give us more earning potential.  I was always under the impression that it takes money to live like you don’t care about or have money.  I thought that it takes having just the right job, in just the right neighborhood, with just the right city infrastructure to give up something like a car.  While all these things make it much easier, this has not been our story.  We were called to bloom where we are planted and live well with what we have been given.

This morning Octave and I rode in the rain to our favorite grocery store.  I was fortunate to buy handfuls of fresh produce, herbs, chocolate and even some special cheese.  To walk into the grocery store and not only buy exactly what I needed, but also what I wanted was one of the best feelings.  After our rough year, I’ve promised to never take that for granted.  I remembered that just months ago, going to the grocery store was not so light-hearted and inspiring.  I prided myself on budget friendly meals that looked and tasted gourmet, but relentlessly prayed for God to provide more.  Yet even in our lowest, most discouraging place, we still were far better off than 40 million Americans.

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All this is to say that tonight I finally watched A Place At The Table.  I wept like a baby, and then I wept some more.  My heart is heavy and I feel the burden of hunger in this country, on my very own shoulders.  Hunger exists, and yet most of us don’t even know about it or have to see it.  Those of us who know about it fear that there is nothing we can do about it.  I am certain that I was not given my love for cooking for me and my family alone.  I was not given this passion for food to just post pretty pictures, and share sweet stories.   This realization does not diminish the heart and soul that goes into this space.  I am a creative being and this is such a fun outlet for me.  However, I know it does not end there.  I don’t know what this change looks like just yet, but I want to be apart of it!

My personal experience has revealed that riding bikes can create more room in a tight budget for food, and help to maintain a healthy and agile body.  It can also make you really happy!  I am not suggesting everyone sell their car, I know it is not that simple, and I am not pretending to know what is best for the millions of people who go hungry every day.   I know that people have different preferences, circumstances, values, and convictions.  I am not interested in telling others how to live.  I will however share my own story, and bring light to the fact that the automobile, food crisis and obesity in this country are all deeply connected more than we may realize.  Would food deserts, racism and poverty in this country even exist if we weren’t given the opportunity to segregate, spread ourselves out, and build our own kingdoms via the automobile?  Maybe, maybe not, but the automobile makes this much easier, and now privileged upper-class people have the ability to stay privileged, and not have to come face to face with those who are not.  Like I said earlier, assumptions are really dangerous, and in this country there is an assumption that poverty and hunger is a choice, and anyone can rise above it.  We watch Will Smith in The  Pursuit of Happiness and think that such a story is possible for everyone, rather than one in a million.  This could not be further from the truth.

If you are reading this I encourage you to watch the documentary, A Place At The Table, if you haven’t already, (it’s on Netflix.)  If you feel compelled, send an email to Congress to protest against cutting the SNAP program that millions of hungry Americans depend on.  It seriously take 2 minutes!  Click here to see what else you can do.  Let’s end hunger in our neighborhoods, in America, and then the world!  No one deserves to go hungry. EVER.

10 comments

  1. Erin, your lovely words have touched my heart. While trying to raise funds and ask for donations for my Fiji humanitarian trip these last few weeks, I have struggled with many things. Mostly I find myself amazed at the lack of awareness….or maybe it is not a lack but just a mere denial in the need of mankind. My heart has become heavy as I have realized that many of my “close friends” have no interest in supporting my mission, not just financially but as a support team. I try very hard not to judge but this to have become a challenge for me. It is difficult to live in a society where so many have the “I want” mentality. Like you, I will stand behind what I believe in, what I am passionate about. I will continue to spread awareness and let my voice be heard……and if it means I lose a few “friends” in the process, that is ok as I will be gaining many more worth having. Continue to be strong and stand behind your beliefs, continue to have the faith that you too can change things, one day at a time, one situation at a time, one person at a time. Your daughter is a lucky girl to have parents like you and Chris.
    Sending all my love,
    Cathy

    1. Thanks Cathy! Your passion for your mission is so inspiring! I am so encouraged by all that you and Jazz have done and are doing. Also I am encouraged to have friends and family like you guys who love and support us. Thank you!
      Love you Cathy!

  2. If we give a person a fish to eat, they are not hungry for a day. If we teach them how to fish, they will never starve. It’s not just about feeding the hungry, it’s about teaching them how to supply for themselves and then they can teach others.

    1. I completely agree Aunt Lisa! I do believe in grass roots change…teaching people how to prepare fresh local foods, growing gardens, and putting the power back in people’s hands. However, I also believe there are a lot of structural issues that are keeping people hungry while also perpetuating obesity. I believe change has to happen from the bottom up and the top down. Thanks for your comment!
      Love you Resa!

  3. Such an enthralling post! Thank you for letting us into your life and your decisions. I don’t find your decision to own bikes instead of a car is unsafe, irresponsible, or egotistical at all! That is CRAZY talk! It’s very interesting the snap judgements people make about us based on the way we are living in this world. I want to give you a high-five, honestly.

    Also, that documentary trailer brought tears to my eyes, and I haven’t even seen it yet. Thanks for putting it on my radar.

    1. Thanks so much Lauren! Sometimes I do need to hear that I am not crazy. This morning I got challenged on the safety of our bike for my daughter once again. For the first time I didn’t take it as an attack but instead I had compassion when I saw that people are just genuinely concerned. It is interesting how easy it is for people to think something is weird or unsafe if they don’t see other people doing it. We probably live in one of the most challenging states to experiment living this way, but if and when we move it will only get way easier. Until we have community reinforcement, I will just watch youtube videos of women in Europe biking with multiple children in the box and even in ergo carriers! And thanks for the high five, I needed it:)

      1. So true- it’s wonderful that you have changed your perspective about the whole thing. When people give me unsolicited advice about my kids, I try so hard to see it as coming from a good place, a place of general concern. But sometimes you run into those tricky ones who are just being nosy and judgmental! And yes, yes, yes. WHERE you live makes all the difference!

      2. Yes, I do know about those tricky ones! I may have made myself sound too zen, a little too soon. A few hours later I didn’t feel so lovey dovey. I have a feeling this will be work in progress;)

  4. I enjoy reading your posts and blogs and am proud of you for stepping out of your comfort zone and exploring new things.. If I weren’t there for your entry into the world, I would think you were switched at birth. LOL! It’s easy for those of us that can’t live like you do, to be critical and maybe even a little jealous because we’ve made our lives complicated.. You have a wonderful spirit, and don’t let anyone rain on it!

    1. Haha! I just laughed so hard. Sometimes I can’t believe that I can from my mother either. Bless her kitchen endeavors! I definitely got my baking talents from you and the grandma’s on both sides:) Thanks Aunt Reese, that really means a lot. Love you so much!

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