I’m the main breadwinner in my family, and have been for many years. My husband started his own business a few years back, and we’d just paid off the debt from startup costs when the pandemic hit, leaving me functionally unemployed. We had wisely left our rainy day fund intact, and it should get us through the fall; after that, unless I can work again, we’re going to be in some trouble.
We’re able to cover just the fundamentals – rent/utilities, insurance and basic groceries. It’s a level of frugality I haven’t experienced since my student years, when a Starbuck latté was a huge splurge. There are a lot of rice and beans on our menu these days, and I would be lying if I said that it wasn’t a struggle sometimes to wrap my mind around how life has changed.
I’ve addressed the concept of comparisons on this blog, and I stand by my basic thesis that they are unhelpful at best, and can increase suffering at their worst. We can’t compare ourselves to others because while all humans feel fear and pain, and we all experience it in a different way, regardless of situation. And whether we are better or worse off than others, feeling bad about our situation in comparison to them doesn’t help us, and it doesn’t help them.
Finally, as a Buddhist, I don’t subscribe to the Judeo-Christian notion of guilt and fear as a motivation for action. Rather, it is compassion.
In the best of times, 1 in 9 Americans experiences food insecurity, and given the exponential rise in unemployment over the last month, that number has increased as well. It is heartbreaking that so many in this country are not having their basic human needs met. And while I still have food on my table, doing without the things I had before gives me even greater compassion for those who endure deprivation, and that compassion is what drives my action.
If Paul and I find ourselves under budget for our groceries this month, I intend to use that amount to support the nourishment of others. Feeding America is the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization and they have food banks across the country; I’ll be making my donation there. And I encourage you to support your local food bank, or any other reputable organizations that can provide support for those in need during these challenging times. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s the collection of small gestures that create big change.
How do you hold compassion for both yourself and for others? What can you do to help?
My task: to keep moving into a place of compassion. It’s hard to think about others when you are frightened for yourself. But that’s exactly when we need to direct our focus outward (it’s an ongoing process, so I can’t say it will ever be done!)