Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My No Frills Experiment

"My name is Jesse and I am a gadget geek." If there was a group for people like me, that is what I would be saying every Wednesday night at our addition meeting. I have two smart phones (I am not sure how smart that really is), three iPods, two laptops (not counting the one that is on my desk nor the one that is on the floor of my bedroom with a dead battery), more accessories than I can name, and a backpack full of wires to make it all go. I have over 20 suits, over 135 ties, and too many shirts, shoes and pants to rattle off. I have STUFF. So, it is easy to see why I chose to simplify my life during the month of February and see how it would be to live without my stuff.

That's right. I spent the month of February with one phone, five pairs of socks, pants, underwear, and t-shirts, five shirts and two pairs of shoes. I also committed to spending only 20 a week for the entire month. It was good for my soul. I broke a couple of bad habits. And, I realized that I have lived such a life of privilege that it makes it very difficult for me to really advocate for others with passion and empathy. I know that sounds like a lot of "stuff" to gain from just giving up some stuff, but it is what it is.

20 Dollars a Week
Did you know that a value meal from McDonalds (medium) cost you $6.20? I am sure that I have purchased that same meal for years, and I never cared how much it cost. I would not even listen as the voice from the box would rattle off some arbitrary number that meant nothing to me. I would simply follow the direction to drive to whichever window and fork over a bill that was large enough to cover any number that started with a one and only had two digits preceding the decimal. You can do that when you know you have more where that came from. And, even if I did not have more, I had a credit card that I could whip out and drive on. But, on that day when I needed a quick meal before bible study, and all I had was that one twenty dollar bill that had to last me until Sunday, I stopped and listened to what she had to say; $6.20. I even did something that I had not done since I was a little boy in Alabama. I counted my change, and placed all of it into my pocket. I could not afford to just carelessly toss it into the ashtray or the bottom of the drink holder. It was all I had left until the end of the week. I cared about where it was, and how it was spent.

The next week, on Monday, I refreshed my wallet and got ready to face the world with my freshly washed clothes and attitude. But there was one other thing that refused to be refreshed; my head. I had been suffering from what are classically referred to as "cluster" headaches. So, after days of hiding from the light, and not taking anything, I gave in to the process, and called the doctor for an appointment. After being in the office and receiving the treatment, I was on my way out when a new sickness fell over me. I had forgotten about this part. I had to check out. I had to fill the prescription, I had to.... pay the co-pay. Well, it turns out that I don't have a co-pay for those visits. So, I walked out with my twenty dollars firmly tucked away in my wallet, and a new reality tucked away in my spirit. Not only was a fortunate enough to have insurance, but I had very good insurance. For some people, that co-pay would have meant the end of their "money" for the entire week. It would have meant that they had no money to get the medicine that they actually needed . That doctor's visit could have been in vain; because I could have been incapable of purchasing the medication. This is where I was also reminded that there are doctors in this world who give patients enough samples to make a prescription, prescribe generic brands, waive their own co-pay, and do other things of the sort, so their patients can afford the medication they prescribe. I am thankful for them.

The final two weeks were a bust. My father died and there was no way I could have buried him with twenty dollars in my pocket.Oops, there goes another one of my realities. It must be hard for people who do not have money, to even bury their loved ones. Now, I am not obtuse. I have always known that it was hard to be poor. I have been poor for most of my life. Alas, how quickly we assimilate and forget. By the way, how much did your last fast food meal cost?

We will talk about the technology next week. Happy blogging. I am looking forward to your comments.