“But one of the greatest gifts we feel she can receive is a life in this community: we want her to know and feel the love of people who are alive, who don’t give a damn about money and who are willing to do with their lives what they think God is asking” – Jeanie Wylie-Kellermann
Isaac and I were wandering around Barnes and Nobles avoiding the heat and humidity that has hit Detroit. We were looking at books on CD and talking about how you could listen to them in the car. When he saw “Caps for Sale,” he pulled it off the shelf and took off. He walked right to the counter saying “home,” “pay.” Eek. That happened fast. He gets the process and in his mind, it is pretty easy. You want, you take, you slide a card, and it comes home.
I remember when I was pregnant with him, I swore we would shop after he was asleep. I never wanted him to see a big box store. Well, that didn’t happen.
So what to do? Capitalism is everywhere and it lures us in. I’m certainly susceptible to it and I drag him right along with me. He lives in a city where 45% of the people are living in poverty. How do we talk about money and materialism? How do we live a life that models a different thinking about money? We don’t have to explain poverty to him. He is learning it every day as we walk our neighborhood, hang out at the Catholic Worker, and share a church community with folks living on the street. Poverty will never be a “concept” explained in an academic course, but a systemic reality of people he loves and places he knows. In a city that industrialism and capitalism have abandoned, it takes work to find that overt personal consumer addiction and often involves a trip to the suburbs. In fact, if I stay out of downtown and some quickly gentrifying neighborhoods, money looks and works a whole lot different.
It’s damn complicated and we are muddling through. But I am grateful to teach him about money in this neighborhood where buying local means from your neighbors. I take Isaac on Sunday mornings to the in home bakery just doors down the street. He sits beside me on Wednesday afternoons at our block farmers market as we sell fruit, vegetables, and eggs. Sometimes neighbors sell tamales and always there are kids selling lemonade. He watches as neighbors give us $5 to pick a bag of cherries in our yard and later we give that $5 back for a dinner of hot pupusas. Money is loaned freely from neighbor to neighbor in moments of crisis. And for big celebrations, money is given to the neighbor who plays the trumpet in a Mariachi band. It is a local economy. Isaac watches money circulate this block as gift and gratitude for the work of our hands, the delight of our bellies, the needs of our neighbors, and the bounty of this earth. And for now, that is enough.
So as the humidity lingers in these summer months, I will try to resist the comfort of the manicured ice consumer boxes, and instead sit with some amazing mothers and kids on the porches indulging in sprinklers and the never ending ice cream trucks.