16 April, Friday — Surviving Scarcity

Friday of the 2nd Week of Eastertide

Acts 5:34-42
Jn 6:1-15

So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves.

Scarcity brings out the worst in people’s true characters. All of this was made abundantly clear in 2020 when, during COVID, America found itself facing a paper products shortage. We are a people used to abundance. And we love our paper products! When I first arrived in America, I had a bit of a culture shock in the paper products aisle at our local grocery store. Every form factor had been accounted for. Brawny even makes kitchen towels where you ‘choose a size’, a concept I’d previously not seen anywhere else before. This sense of abundance changed in 2020. Because of the lockdown, people began hoarding household staples, none more aggressively than the humble toilet paper. The toilet paper roll became a symbol of the new scarcity that was America’s COVID experience. Fights broke out in Costco because of it. People began hoarding the stuff and reselling it for multiple times its usual price. Strange brands of questionable quality started popping up on the internet. Grocery stores put quotas on how many paper products a household could purchase. People even began stalking grocery replacement cycles at the local store. It was as if we were obsessed.

Scarcity changes our perception of how much is enough. It alters how we do practical math. I, for one, suddenly needed to have all my linen closets stocked with paper products. My neighbors filled their garages. I found myself reluctant to part with my hoard and only grudgingly gave up rolls to family and friends who were less prepared. Scarcity brings out the worst of our true nature. We become selfish and aggressive when that perception of abundance is threatened. Which brings us to our gospel story of the loaves and fish — while the adults in the crowd were shaking their heads and wringing their hands in doubt and despair, a BOY gave up his five loaves and two fish so Christ could work his miracle. And from that small offering, God made enough to fill twelve wicker baskets with fragments, one for each of the apostles.

It takes the faith of a child to see beyond, and believe in God’s providence. In adulthood, we get scales in our eyes that blind us to God’s grace. Maybe it’s the trauma of life experience that puts distrust in our hearts. Maybe it’s our need for control. America didn’t need to hoard all those paper products. Enough was made in the end, so most people didn’t even have to call on the reserves in their linen closets and garages. But in that moment in the spring of 2020, it was as if we had lost ourselves and in so doing, wasted an opportunity to experience God’s providence for ourselves.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for greater fortitude, faith and awareness, that we may recognize crises as opportunities to experience God’s providence.   

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s mercy and boundless patience, despite our stubbornness and lack of faith.

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