In my work teaching in our semester program and working with our site leaders I find myself often thinking about the various cycles we see repeated in the communities we serve in; cycles of abuse, family dysfunction, and poverty among others that are passed on from generation to generation. They are passed on until someone makes the decision to swim upstream and stop the cycle. Much of what we do is empowering and encouraging people to break these cycles. One of the challenges is there are often little things that go unnoticed that contribute in big ways to these cycles.
Last week while I was at Mas x Menos, a local grocery store, I went by the meat counter to see if my friend Christopher was working. He was not, but I noticed there was a great special on fresh boneless, skinless, chicken breasts. The usual price is over 6,000 Colones per kilogram (about $5.25/pound) and they were on sale for less than 3,000 Colones (about $2.65/pound). Our family tends to eat a lot of chicken and we have the freezer space to store it so I purchased four kilos (just under nine pounds) of chicken.
As I drove out of the Mas x Menos parking lot that day I thought about the little things that made it possible for me to take advantage of the sale. Things I have in my favor that many of my friends here do not have in their favor. I was able to drive to the store to take advantage of the sale. Transportation is something we tend to take for granted until we don’t have it. I like to remind our student teams that being able to ride the bus is a privilege. But the fact that I drove to the store meant that I did not have to think twice about how I was going to get the nine pounds of chicken home. I certainly would not want to carry it and the other items I purchased as I walked to the bus stop, climbed on the bus, fumbled for change to pay the bus, stood up on the full bus, and then walked from the bus stop to my house. After all they don’t make those plastic grocery bags as strong as they used to!
I knew that we have a freezer with room in it to store the chicken until we needed it. I also knew that while money tends to be tight these days we had enough in our bank account to be able to make this unplanned purchase that will in the long run save us money. Forget living paycheck to paycheck, I have been reminded lately how many of my friends are living moment to moment not knowing where the next meal is coming from. Many of them would have been thrilled to get one chicken breast, let alone 9 pounds.
There are probably many other “little things” that combined to make it possible for me to buy that chicken. Little things that are seemingly unimportant such as transportation, freezer space, and a few dollars in a banking account. However it is these seemingly little things that make a big difference. So often as we walk alongside people the world has forgotten I want to make a big difference or do something that will drastically change reality for people I have come to love dearly. But last week as I put the chicken in the freezer I found myself thinking, “How can we empower someone with something little, that will make a big difference?”