I love the work I am blessed to do—encouraging Presbyterians to live lifestyles that reflect their faith values, celebrating Earth Care Congregations and our new Hunger Action Congregation program, partnering with amazing individuals and networks in the U.S. and around the world who are working to address root causes of hunger and poverty, and sharing Presbyterian stances on hunger, poverty, and environmental injustice in global, ecumenical contexts. Yet the work doesn’t stop as I leave my office. It stays in my heart, and in my body. For me, and so many Presbyterians, this is our calling, and it is a journey.
Growing up in my family, we had a backyard garden, took our recycling to the fire station, and tried to avoid purchases of frivolous consumer items. I learned from my grandparents and parents to conserve, and to value in-person time with people over against any material goods.
I now find myself as the parent, living in my own home, carrying on those traditions, and seeking out new opportunities as well. Our recycling can is bigger than our trash can. Our lightbulbs are CFLs (they are lasting as long as promised so I don’t have the heart to trade them out yet for LEDs!) We compost, eat lower on the food chain, re-use and repair products as much as we can. I drive a hybrid car, set our thermostat for energy efficiency, take our own shopping bags to the grocery, and unplug the wifi and other flashing power lights at night. My kids know that much of our food is organic, homemade, from local gardens, or our CSA. (I do buy more than I like of packaged junk food and name-brand clothing, since I am doing the delicate act of parenting teens and choosing my battles!)
Recently, it has been hard to feel how all of this adds up to anything bigger than token efforts in a failing societal system. Environmental regulations and protections are being dismantled at national levels, while we sell our reusable tote bags at church. The global climate change agreement—that I was so humbled and honored to witness in person in Paris, at the United Nations COP 21—will proceed without U.S. involvement according to the President, as I walk through my house turning off lights.
The truth is, I don’t really know what will make enough difference. Certainly not just my life. I still consume too much, use too much, live with immense privilege. But my grandparents, my parents, me and my children all together? That enlarges the circle of impact, a bit. My circle of friends, my bi-monthly eco-justice small group, my congregation, and my work place colleagues? That adds in a whole lot of other powerful, inspiring people. All the Presbyterian congregations I hear about and people across the country who email me the stories of their own efforts? Okay, so it’s not the Paris Agreement or the solving of fossil fuels, but we are making a difference, together.
So, I keep doing what I’ve been doing and slowly try to incorporate more, without feeling too overwhelmed or doing it all at once. I continue to make phone calls to my elected representatives, at a much higher volume than ever before. I signed myself up for wind power at home, through Arcadia Power. And just this week, I finally got through the process in order to divest my pension funds from fossil fuels.* I also try things that don’t succeed—regrowing celery from the bottom cut-off portion or planting leftover potato sections with the green eyes sprouting. Um, yeah, neither worked for me.
But we do what we can, each of us in our own corner of the world, and slowly, together, we make a difference. And we surround our daily actions with prayers of gratitude and confidence to God who creates, redeems, and sustains this amazing world.
*For those (like me) who are enrolled in the Board of Pension’s 403b, you can call Fidelity at 800-343-0860 and ask to move your funds to Pax Global Environmental Markets Fund Institutional Class (PGINX), #57887. You can transfer past and/or future funds. I tried other routes before landing on this one, and this seems the easiest.