During the week, I am the designated school lunch preparer. I construct multiple peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches like a ninja, even before the coffee is done brewing. However, the weekends are a different matter. My sons tend to help themselves to the bread, making my ninja-like skills unnecessary. So it sometimes happens that on Friday I am left with a heel from the old loaf of bread. I know better than to expect two boys to voluntarily consume this universally-unappreciated portion of the loaf, and I cannot force it on them since it will be a fibrous rock by the time I make another sandwich. What we do in that case is break it up and put the crumbs in the birdfeeder.
I do have a point. Stay with me.
Today was one of those Fridays. I was sitting at the front window inhaling my first cup of coffee, and I watched the birds come and take small hunks of bread from the feeder. One little bird would land, take a piece, and then fly away home, leaving the rest for the others. And then (because it was my first cup of coffee, so I was feeling all broody), I started to reflect on Nature and honoring our blessings.
Today is also my seventeenth wedding anniversary, and this date always makes me think about the small quirks of my marriage that make my relationship with my husband so fun. One of our longest-standing battles is the toothpaste tube. He is firmly in the “squeeze that sucker from the middle like a boss” camp, whereas I, the daughter of a man who still acts like it’s the Depression, am a big believer in squeezing from the end and meticulously folding the end of the tube as you go. Someone once asked me why we were still having skirmishes over this admittedly minor philosophical point, particularly since I myself did not grow up during the Depression and have no compelling reason to care if some toothpaste was wasted through haphazard squeezage.
Here’s my point now.
Where do we draw the line on wastefulness? When we have an abundance of any particular thing, should we honor that blessing by taking care of it and using it responsibly and conscientiously, or does that sort of thinking only apply to big-ticket items? When I have clothing I cannot use anymore, I will donate what I can to charity or repurpose the fabric. When my kids have toys and books they no longer use, I pass them on to my friends’ children. When we have leftover dinner, I put it in the fridge to eat later. But all these things – clothes, toys, books, and food – cost a lot of money. It’s easy to be careful about waste when it takes some of the strain off your bank account. What happens when finances are not a consideration?
Whether it’s toothpaste or bread or love or family, I think we all tend to be irresponsible about the blessings in our lives. The birds outside take the bread they need today, but you won’t see one bird hoarding bread and keeping it from the other birds. There isn’t a nest filled with stale, sodden crusts that are no longer edible because the nest’s owner took more than it needed to sustain itself. Birds don’t waste their blessings that way. However, human beings do. We fill our homes with things we don’t need, “just in case,” while we waste necessary staples. We neglect our friendships and relatives but spend a ridiculous amount of energy on people who don’t deserve it. When we have an abundance of something, we become careless rather than generous.
The Depression might be just a page in history now, but I think that the lesson it taught about honoring every small blessing should not be forgotten. Don’t throw away things – or people – carelessly. The day may come when you need a friend but can’t find one. Someday you may need to brush your teeth, but the tube is too mangled to get any toothpaste out. Think about what you have and be grateful for it. And make sure to leave some bread for the other birds.
I have long since surrendered to my husband’s manly toothpaste squeezing. I never find the seat up in the middle of the night, so it’s a concession I’m willing to make. Besides, as blessings go, my husband is far more important to me than a neatly-rolled toothpaste tube.