Culture and Economy

              In the time we have spent caring for our grandsons, we have watched our fair share of children’s shows. I have been impressed with some of the very good programming that is available.  At the same time, I am just astounded how the commercials are geared towards making children into consumers.  I recognize that to some extent this has always been so.  But in the early days of television, commercials were shorter and were focused on not only toys but things like children’s toothpaste and household items a mother watching might use.

 Children today are bombarded with commercials that go on and on, all in lovely pastel colors and glitter.  I saw one this week with a clear message about consumerism: two beautiful little girls with baskets full of yummy looking cookies walk over to a playhouse where a child “shopkeeper” greets them. They each give her a cookie and in exchange she gives them each a new baby doll.  They walk back to their child-sized table and chairs and sit wreathed in smiles with their baby dolls.

This topic seems particularly poignant at the holidays.  Children and adults alike are assaulted with commercials advertising not only “perfect gifts,” but also, at a deeper level, “perfect connections,” couples and families so enjoying one another’s company.  The ads seem especially cruel in a year when Covid 19 creates barriers to shopping and get-togethers, and has left many empty spaces at the tables of those who have lost spouses, partners, parents, children, friends to this virus.   

“Any discipline that has to do with human behavior needs to take into account how humans think and how society, history, and context shape this thinking,”  Asli Demirquc-Kunt, host of the 2015 World Development Report on Mind, Society, and Behavior, stated.

“It is a challenge to engage in the spirit of Advent,” I wrote some years ago, “when the prevailing message, the insistent chant from the airwaves, seems to be that it is our patriotic duty to shop, to keep the economy moving forward.”  When we worship at the altar of the Economy, in a manner of speaking, we sell a bit of our souls to the devil.

Terry and I agreed not to buy each other gifts this year. We plan a very quiet Christmas, sitting by the fire, reading, listening to music. The nature of this year lends itself to being reflective.  I hope in some small way this minimizes how society influences this season.  May you find those means that make this a more peaceful, less commercialized experience for you.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  The World Bank is made up of 189 member countries, staff from more than 170 countries, and offices in 130 locations. The World Bank Group is a unique global partnership:  five institutions working for sustainable solutions that reduce poverty and build shared prosperity in developing countries.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday, begun in 2012, was created by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation, with the intent to create a day that was all about celebrating the generosity of giving, an antidote to the consumer culture. Each year since, the first Tuesday following Thanksgiving has been designated Giving Tuesday. Though information for the first year is incomplete, $10.1 million was collected through Blackbaud, a leading software company powering social good. 

              In my FaceBook memories this week, I found a post from 2017 where I had just heard on the news that the amount spent on gifts between Thanksgiving and Christmas was expected to be 682 billion (“with a B”) dollars. By comparison, the amount collected for Giving Tuesday in 2017 turned out to be $274 million (with an M”) dollars.  The reality is that Giving Tuesday has grown each year.  Since its inception nearly 2 billion dollars has been raised for various nonprofits. 

 The comment made on the news report I had heard in 2017 was that the spending “would be good for the economy.”  I pondered when the economy became the god we all worshiped.  I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about how the economy works.  While theoretically a good economy is good for everyone, with employers more willing to hire, some people clearly benefit much more than others.  If the worker pool is plentiful, employers don’t necessarily feel any need to raise pay or benefits. 

In the best case, when we look back on this season of Covid 19, perhaps we will recognize we have come to develop a greater appreciation for enjoying simple pleasures and doing with less.  The opposite effect could occur as well:  having felt “deprived” we might become all the more greedy “to make up for lost time.”  May we endeavor to work toward the former and eschew the latter.

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Café for each other and all those we encounter.  Shalom, Kate

Hope’s Café Bonus:  When I reposted my FB memory from 2017, I stated that my intention is to make every Tuesday a Giving Tuesday between December 1, 2020 and December 1,2021.  I am considering how I will live out this intention.  Perhaps you may choose to honor it in some special way yourself.  Reminder:  Giving Tuesday will be celebrated this year on December 1.


Hope’s Café….“where one can always find words of encouragement and a healthy snack.” These words are not original to me but are a line from a play that the children and youth at our church put on in December 2005. The words stuck with me. At the time I was completing three years of lay ministry training along with seven other church members. We decided we would designate a corner in one of the church rooms as “Hope’s Café.” One of us brought a table. One brought café type seating with checked patterned pads on the seats. A church member who was skilled at woodworking made a “Hope’s Café” sign. I put together a “menu” filled with uplifting quotes and articles and invited church members to contribute.

So today I continue in the spirit of those early efforts to give meaning to the words “Hope’s Café.” I write as we are living in these strange circumstances brought on by Covid 19. Ironically, we are both pulled apart as a nation and world as the competition builds for necessary resources and also more connected than ever by this virus. We all struggle to protect ourselves. We all feel the impact of the world economy teetering. We all face the challenge of how best to cope.

Years ago I came across the following quote: “It is not the circumstances in which we find ourselves but the spirit with which we meet them that constitutes our comfort.” There is fear, worry, grief aplenty in this time. It is important that we acknowledge them. But we don’t have to succumb to them. Even as we shelter in place, we can actively seek to bring a hopeful attitude to our circumstances. What medical developments might be discovered? What connections might people strengthen with one another? Might we learn to do with less? Might we find deeper meaning in our lives in a quieter, less busy environment? Pay attention to where your mind and spirit take you. Then redirect yourself as needed to a more hopeful space—your very own “Hope’s Café.”

May we be bearers of hope, the “wait staff” of Hope’s Cafe for each other and all those we encounter. Shalom, Kate

P.S. Bonus “healthy snack” tip: wash and freeze blueberries (spread in a layer)! They are quite tasty frozen 😊