Kids are going hungry; can I still want a new kitchen floor?

What an awe-inspiring, wonder-filled, baffling and stupid world we live in. Today, millions and maybe billions of children are going hungry. Yet, here I sit, planning my kitchen upgrade.

A recent commenter on this blog suggested I give up envy and desire and be happy with the kitchen I have.

He or she has “ugly, ugly, I mean hideous old vinyl flooring in the kitchen” with a “bizarre pattern of red, black gray, brown and yellow” that “clashed with everything.” And yet he or she (I’m assuming it’s a he) has lived with that vinyl for 10 years in favor of funding a savings account.

And so that got me thinking . . . how do we square what’s happening in the world with our own prosperous surroundings? Should I strive to live like the poorest person on the planet? Or the richest? Obviously my own level will be somewhere in between. But where on the scale? That is my dilemma.

I want to be a good citizen of the planet. But there are economic, political and religious forces that I did not create and I cannot control. Should the greed and corruption of others dictate my own level of prosperity?

I do agree that envy is not the way to go, nor is craving and unrelenting dissatisfaction with my current living situation. Indeed, much of our country’s economy depends on my and your chronic unhappiness with our lives, the solution to which will be revealed at the next commercial break.

But for me, it’s not envy. I’m looking for beauty in my surroundings, and grace and harmony.

Can I pursue that state of being and still be a good citizen of the world? Or am I a traitor to those children?

How about you? How do your goals for a pleasing and well-kept home make sense in light of all the sufferings in the world?

5 Comments on Kids are going hungry; can I still want a new kitchen floor?

  1. Kathy Price-Robinson

    Oh, I love these thoughtful comments on finding the right level. I so appreciate these. Many thanks.

  2. sasjeh

    Finding that middle path is difficult.
    We live well, but compared to other people earning similar amounts, we live poor. We do not buy (lease) a new car every year.
    We have the rule that we do not take a loan for anything, except buying a house (A house is one of the few things that in a normal stable market will compensate the amount of interest you payed, most other things won’t). So our rule is if you can not afford it, without a loan, then you are living above your means.
    But then still, it is not because we can afford something we buy it. We could have bought a bigger car or even own two cars, but since it is mostly me on my own in the car and we live within biking distance for my husbands work, why should we? We could use an extra armchair in the living for when we have friends over, but then we would never use it.
    We try to evaluate carefully if we will really use something, not if we just want something. But if your house is in need of a remodel (or a room), then go ahead. And I think living in a nice, beautiful place does not equal living expensively. I know that if my kitchen is uninviting, I would cook less, eat out more and that uses gas, and is more wasteful, then if I would love my kitchen and enjoy cooking.

  3. gimbler

    Ya know… I think I’m about as “lefty” a liberal as you’ll ever find. I have a social consciousness. I also have a life and desires of my own, and I’d be damned if I’d feel guilty for enjoying the fruits of my own labor.
    I think you should do what you can and do what you want. Forgoing a kitchen floor isn’t going to change the world. But, it may change your world, for the better, if you do.
    It’s all about balance, in my never so humble opinion.


    This reminds me of a fairly new book, “House Lust” — about America’s obsession with our homes due to all the HGTV — real estate and home improvement television shows. Maybe we need a 24/7 ‘good citizen how-to’ show. Think it would have the same effect?
    BTW — I have no affiliation with the above mentioned book.

  5. sheila

    why not set up 2 accounts and put matching funds in each? one for “green kitchen upgrade” and one for “charitable contributions” and do the same with your time. one hour for cabinet stripping means one hour volunteering.
    i never thought your remodel was about envy, by the way, even if many of the items you feature here appear to be exactly that (more like trying to impress others). that home show nightmare in Florida? that $10,000 bathtub? these hideous McMansions with all their pathetic “upgrades? yech. give me a cabin, an ipod and 300,000 people fed for a year any day!
    there is nothing wrong with living reasonably well as long as you recognize that by being born middle class and white in America, you were born on third base — you didn’t hit a triple, and behave accordingly. 90% of our prosperity has been handed to us, not earned, even though we like to feel all entitled because we work hard. Anyone who feels that way should spend a little time in a rural village in almost any other country in the world for a little reality check.
    who knows what position you will be born into next time, and how dependent you may be on wealthy powerful people for your lifeline? almost all spiritual philosophies and religions include this concept to encourage people to act with enlightened self-interest: care for self is inexorably tied to care for others and the planet.
    we can’t all control everything, but that doesn’t mean we are absolved from contributing anything. i hope you will continue encouraging your readers to keep the bigger picture in mind. thanks for this.