As a person living in 21st century America, it might seem that our whole existence revolves around consuming. We consume readily available food and drink, we buy clothes and items for our household, and we consume larger than ever amounts of media in all its different forms. Truly, if we are honest with ourselves, we spend much of our time each day in “consumer mode” without a second thought. Consuming is not an evil in and of itself, but it can become addictive and can lead us to become lazy and passive about our daily lives. Whereas our ancestors grew their own food, sewed their own clothes, and built their own homes, most of us buy food produced by someone else, clothes sewn by someone else, and homes built by someone else. Whereas communities relied on each other in the past for entertainment and the communication of information, we can now plug into a vast network from the convenience of our own homes and never connect with another person in the process. The more I think about this, the more stark the contrast becomes in my mind, and the more it makes me wonder about the psychological and practical implications for individuals, families, and society at large.
At a recent Open House at my son’s new school, one of the teachers made the comment that they are striving to teach our sons to be Creators, and not merely Consumers. They will emphasize creating in every aspect of the school year, from the classroom to the art and music studios to the playing field. This idea struck a cord in me, and I immediately began to think of all of the ways that God calls us to cooperate in His work of Creation, even as he has given us (out of His goodness) many good things to enjoy and care for. I began to think of all of the mothers I know who, against the grain of our modern world, have found it important to create beautiful things within their own homes. These women grow vegetables in their backyards, knit blankets and sew dresses, create delicious homemade meals, paint bedrooms, and make lesson plans for their children. I thought of my own husband, who likes to fix and build things even when it would be easier to hire someone else to do these tasks. I thought about the fulfillment that I get from things like playing the piano, writing in my journal or for this blog, and making pizza for my family – all of these are ways of creating, and they are good.
When we take the time to create, we learn about ourselves and about God, who is the source of all that is good. We also become more mindful of the things that we consume, and more thankful for their presence in our lives and for those who have created them. We realize the work that goes into creating, especially the things that we ourselves could not create (roads, buildings, sewer pipes, great works of art, musical masterpieces, etc.), and the inherent dignity that is attached to this work. Ultimately, this awareness makes us more fully human, and compels us to strive for a society in which all work is honored.
Today, I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on all of these things, and I would love to hear your ideas on how to imbue a love of creating, and a proper appreciation for consuming, into our children.
Mary, Queen of Families, pray for us!