Susan Naomi Bernstein is a writer and educator living in Queens, NY. Her blog is called: “Beyond the Basics” (for Bedford Bits)
Today my spouse of nearly thirty years asked me: “Do you have everything you need?” My spouse was asking about lunch— and yet—the existential sweetness of that inquiry fills me with inspiration.
In times that seem to offer little but scarcity and austerity, I wonder often what constitutes abundance. What do people in our world need to survive spiritually and materially? A list based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights offers the following: A roof over our heads, food in our bellies, healthcare for our well being, clothing for our bodies, education (inside and outside of schools) for our hearts and minds—as well as freedom from violence, from physical and spiritual oppression.
Recently, I contemplated the quandary of clothing. After an afternoon of attempting to make peace with the clutter in my life, I packed a bag shirts, skirts, pants, and sweaters. This packing was no easy task. As I realized these clothes no longer fit my body and that I would never wear any of these pieces again, my sentimental attachments to each piece lingered. Even as I considered the ample resources that remained in my closet, I still felt concern about lack. Yet on this afternoon I would discover that I had enough—and that I had had enough.
“I’m going out on an errand,” I said to my spouse, slinging the clothing bag over my shoulder, walking out the door, and heading for the subway. Not long afterward, I found myself at the Really Really Free Market at Judson Memorial Church, unpacking the clothes in my bag and placing them on an empty table. The women I met greeted me with warmth and happiness, and I felt great relief at having arrived to greet them in return. If the subway trip had been relatively short, the journey to this time and place had taken years.
According to the Jewish tradition of mitzvah, I had not disclosed to anyone where I had gone. Only hesitantly did I relate my errand to my spouse afterwards, and even more hesitantly do I disclose that errand here. Yet my spouse’s question: “Do you have everything you need?” opens me to the challenge of recognizing abundance. And so I take the deepest of breaths and share once more share my experiences in writing. Such experiences are lessons fostered and learned in the exuberant remembrance of Autumn 2011 in Zuccotti Park. In moments of seeming austerity, writing extends this gift of abundance—an opportunity to become fully alive and fully human in the presence of our days.