In my endeavour to reform my consumer-driven ways this Ramadan, I have been using a model I know for activating repentance: knowledge – state – action. I began with the knowledge that I have too much stuff, and that I am wasting it by keeping it from being used by someone else …
I decided to clear out some clothes and children’s things that had been so little-used it was clear they were surplus to our needs, and to take them to a charity shop. I’ve been so grateful that charity shops have offered me things at prices I can afford. And I cherished giving locally. So I lovingly ironed the clothes, investing my time and effort into the act of giving, and hoping to ensure I did not cause anyone a burden due to my donations. I made sure I included items I was very fond of. And soon, off they all went to the charity shop.
Continuing to sort through my cupboards, I discovered a play pen which I used to decorate as a play house for my children. Impatience begged me to take the redundant item to a charity shop as soon as possible. To have shared it as conveniently as possibly. I hesitated. I used to go to charity shops every week. I was delighted to be re-using second-hand things and not wasting. But actually, I made a habit of buying. Realising this about myself, giving the play pen to a charity shop felt like feeding the habit I was trying to break. Couldn’t I give the play pen away locally in a way that builds community face-to-face and without charge? I considered Freecycle, but felt too impatient to await a response. So I posted the play pen on a local women’s yahoo group, saying it was on its way to a charity shop unless wanted. Thank God, a reply arrived promptly. It was from a mother who had offered to lend me children’s clothes. We arranged for her to come around. We swapped things, and she and I chatted while our children played together.
No thanks to my impatience, I have made some headway moving away from my over-consumption of unnecessary things and towards swapping, rather than selling and buying, and towards strengthening friendships. I have gained some experiential knowledge of myself, regarding where I am with my intentions to move away from consumerism and towards simplicity, sharing and community. I am feeling the discomfort of my changing state, thank God. I’ve started planning our ‘Eid celebration at the end of Ramadan and I recognise myself wanting to hold on to making decisions that involve buying things, and resisting simpler alternatives that spring from me thinking about moving away from consumerism. Recognition feels like an achievement.
My impatience and consumer habits almost undermined me even starting to make a shift in my behaviour this Ramadan (for which I made intention, and discussed in my previous blog). Recognising that I am struggling seems to present me with an enormous opportunity to change myself and to change my heart. God willing I hope to continue an inner transition that enables me to move towards a new and better pattern of action, for myself and for society. What better time than Ramadan to slow down and reflect and ask God to change my heart?