Meat Hoarding (and other tales)
The woman in front of me on the checkout line at the grocery store the other day had twocarts. How she managed to push two carts around the store by herself remains a mystery. The first cart was stacked high with paper goods. That’s a polite way of saying ROLLS AND ROLLS OF TOILET PAPER. The other cart must have had 50 boxes of chicken nuggets.
Now, in fairness, perhaps I was behind Old Mother Hubbard. Maybe she did “live in a shoe” and have “so many children she didn’t know what to do.” That’s certainly a possibility. But the more likely scenario is that she had two toddlers at home and was panic buying.
As I walked by an empty shelf elsewhere in the store, I saw the butcher shaking his head and muttering, “people are hoarding meat. What are they gonna do with all that meat?” “Hoarding Meat” might make a great name for a death metal band, but it’s a curious response to a public health crisis.
At one level, I understand the impulse to hoard toilet paper, chicken nuggets, and meat. In times of uncertainty, fear is an appropriate and expected emotional response. People want to take action to protect themselves and their loved ones. Do you really need the last 12 bottles of Purell that you spotted on the shelves of CVS? Well, who knows? So you better grab them while you can, before someone else does.
The problem, from a spiritual perspective, is that we’re called to love our neighbor. When Jesus distills everything down to the basics, he tells us to do two things: love God and love neighbor. That’s it. Simple, really, at least in theory if not in practice. But loving our neighbor is half of what we’re supposed to do!
In these unusual circumstances in which we’re living, I encourage you to think about how your actions align with the notion of loving your neighbor? This concept is an essential part of every faith, but it’s also part of what it means to be a decent human being. It’s called “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” after all, not “Mr. Rogers’ Dystopian Free-For-All.”
Every action we take has consequences, but the good news is that this works both ways. You can reach out to those in your community who may feel isolated and alone. You can give that extra roll of toilet paper or bottle of hand soap to a neighbor who needs one. You can donate to a local non-profit that is struggling to raise funds right now. You can mail a letter to your great aunt who has steadfastly refused to join the computer age. You can buy a gift card from a local restaurant for future use.
And, I know this sounds radical, but these devices we carry around in our pockets that have cameras and social media apps also have this function where you can dial a number and speak — in real time! — with someone else using nothing but your own voice. Who knew, right?!
This is an opportunity to let the love of neighbor shine brightly through you. I invite you to reflect upon creative ways to do just that. We will get through this time, we will survive this ordeal. But we will only thrive if we love our neighbors as ourselves.