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Give a little back

Kate Barrett | Thursday, September 13, 2007

As part of our family’s humble effort to go a little green, we get most of our produce through a small local farm. We know the owners from our parish and school, and we like the fact that our eggs and vegetables only have to travel 10 miles to get to our plate, instead of the national average of 1,500 miles for the food which makes up a family meal.

At this time of the year, the wooden basket Brett or his wife Kathy brings over each week is absolutely overflowing with their harvest. Just this past week we received beautiful tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, several kinds of cucumbers, carrots, green beans (and, in fact, purple beans), leeks, onions, lettuces and rainbow swiss chard. My initial reaction to their deliveries lately has been delight, mixed with mild panic. I imagine not being able to close the refrigerator door once I have unloaded it all (sometimes I don’t even have to imagine it as I watch the door insistently swing back open). I spent a good part of last Friday prepping and freezing zucchini for zucchini bread, carrots for carrot cake, and vegetables for soup, so that we can enjoy some of this September goodness in the gloom of January and February.

Maybe the door to the little fridge in your room won’t stay closed after you’ve loaded it up with Diet Cokes or Mountain Dew (or other beverages of choice), or maybe the extra granola bars or Pop-Tarts keep falling off the shelf … or maybe you brought too many clothes, or some bigger items to school with you, forgetting just how small 10′ x 10′ really is. On our way to a Mass in the Alumni Hall chapel the weekend before school started, my husband and I walked down the halls and found ourselves surprised all over again at just how, well, challenging it would be to fit two guys and all their stuff into one of those rooms. When I lived in Farley, the rooms seemed bigger (sorry, Alumni guys), but maybe that’s just because the standard sizes and quantities of what we were trying to squeeze in were smaller. Every so often somebody had a little TV in their room; nobody had their own computer; most roommates just shared those little boom boxes that played cassette tapes. When my brother was a senior and moved off-campus, he and his six roommates all went in together and bought a “house VCR,” because no one had their own. I believe their one video was “This is Spinal Tap,” which they watched over and over.

Now, this is not meant to be one of those “I walked to school in the snow, three miles, uphill both ways” essay/lectures about how good you have it now compared to the late 1980s. But maybe your room looks a little like my fridge: You can barely get the door closed for all the abundance that’s within. The lines between what we need to have in college – or our post-college homes – and what we just want to have in college – or in our family room – have been blurred. Do you really need everything you brought with you this year? Would your room actually be more pleasant without so many possessions? Would you actually be more pleasant? I have found that, faced with an abundance of anything, whether food, clothes or even time, the most satisfying option is to give some away. Give heaps of it away, in fact. In my own family, we are grateful to be able to bring non-perishable foods to church each week for our parish food pantry. I’ll certainly be sharing some of those carrot cakes (at least until my friends start running away when they see me coming).

The rooms aren’t getting any bigger, and you haven’t even brought out your winter gear yet. You can complain that these halls were built when people hardly brought any stuff with them, or you can release some of what you don’t need. Which, for most of us is, let’s face it, almost everything. So lighten up. You’ll be glad you did.

This week’s FaithPoint is written by Kate Barrett, director of resources and special projects in the Office of Campus Ministry. She can be reached at kbarrett@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.