A substantial part of my workday is spent standing at a large wood-topped table kneading and shaping bread with one or two co-workers. Though I love to bake, work often functions in my life the way it does for most other people: I give my time and talents so that I can receive money in return. But, when my vision is a little higher, I sometimes feel as if I am enacting a great myth. As we come to the table to make food for our community and share stories with each other, I feel tied to some of the oldest traditions of humanity. Finding and maintaining such a vision can be difficult because the most prevalent world cultures are so driven by economics.
One day as we stood around the table, I asked my co-workers what stories they knew that had to do with gift-giving and abundance. I gave examples of the loaves and fishes in the New Testament or the widow making bread for Elijah in the Tanakh. One co-worker thought of the story of King Midas. I suggested that that story is more about greed and was surprised by the response that abundance and greed are essentially the same. I fear that conflation may derive from an implicit ideology of the American Dream, which says that anything can be achieved through hard work. The common association of achievement and wealth promotes the idea that abundance is something that must be earned. It is understood that I won’t receive money from my boss unless I work for a certain period of time. While this may be okay for an economic partnership, it should not be the model for our lives. Midas eventually learned that being economically driven ultimately deprived him of a truly abundant life.
Abundance is an attitude. My fiancé, Andrew, used to live in Albania, which is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Economically speaking it is a land of scarcity, but the people live abundantly. Very often he would visit people who would offer him food, though it was obvious that food was sparse. Once he walked through the rain and a man handed him his umbrella, emphatically declining reciprocity. It is uncomfortably ironic that an economically abundant culture promotes an attitude of scarcity while an economically scarce culture practices an attitude of abundance.
Wherever we are we can foster an attitude of abundance by elevating our vision beyond the economic. This attitude will affect the people around us and scarcity will give way to abundance in our homes and communities.
Written by Elisabeth S. Weagel