|By Annemarie Paulin-Campbell
|Life these days feels relentless, a constant juggle of trying to stay on top of deadlines and not drop any of the many balls we are juggling. As rates and taxes increase, and as we await the knock-on impact on food prices of the sky-rocketing petrol prices, most of us are also under financial strain. Small businesses are struggling as people stop buying and doing what is not absolutely essential.
Research by FNB showed that currently middle-income earners spend up to 80% of their monthly salary in five days and a substantial proportion of their income goes to paying off debt. With the recent interest rate increase people will be stretched even more. Of greatest concern, are nearly 50% of South Africans who rely on social grants of a few hundred rands. These include the unemployed, people with disabilities and the elderly. They will feel the impact of rising food prices most acutely. It is not possible to feed a family on even the most basic of foodstuffs on this amount.
For those employed on low wages the cost of transport to work may take most of their salaries. As food security becomes more threatened so the likelihood of civil unrest increases. We are in a place of crisis and many people feel despair.
Ironically often the more stressed we are, the more we tend to isolate ourselves from others and try to cope on our own. But more than ever we need our extended families, friends and close communities.
Given the current pressures, we may need to collaborate and depend more on each other, rather than trying to manage our lives solo. In my suburb there is now a “seed swapping” initiative with people helping each other to get veggie gardens going as well as a bartering of services. Coming together with other family members to buy groceries in bulk can make a difference and for those of us fortunate enough to own cars, we may need to lift-share rides to work. Eating more plant-based foods like beans, lentils and chick-peas instead of meat is not only much kinder on the environment, but also reduces costs. Finding ways to help those struggling to feed their families must become something each of us does in our own communities; whether it is contributing to a soup kitchen or committing to help feed one other person or family. If we don’t, the most vulnerable will not survive.
Let’s not ride this storm alone. It’s too difficult. We need to have honest conversations with friends and family about what we can and can’t afford. A bring and share picnic can be as much fun as lunch out in a restaurant. A thoughtful home-made gift may be more treasured than a shop-bought gift.
We need to reduce the pressure on ourselves. We cannot keep working longer and longer hours and getting even more exhausted. The invitation in this difficult time may rather be to live more simply and to support each other, especially those most vulnerable, more intentionally.
We cannot gather around the Eucharistic table if we are not feeding each other.