I have a feeling that when people see or hear that we don’t own a car, they get the wrong impression. I can see the gears turn in their head, and the comments they make, leave me to believe that we easily get labeled as the next self – righteous hipster couple. Bikes are cool, especially this one, but we are not.
What people don’t know is the journey we have been on the last four years. They don’t know that we love people, and hate war, and those two passions are deeply connected to our decision to live car free. They don’t know that we believe refusing to purchase oil, on a weekly basis, is our tangible way of loving our neighbors half way across the world. It is our tangible way of saying that our comfort and lifestyle is never ever worth innocent lives. They don’t know that while my husband has a great job, we have an insane amount of school debt, and a year ago we were hundreds of dollars short, every single month. We were in a real financial crisis. I am not talking about a first world crisis that translates to, I can’t afford an iPhone. I mean the kind of struggle that results in our family and friends bringing us groceries, buying our daughter the next size up in cloth diapers, and simply giving us their own hard-earned money, or else we would not have paid our bills. I don’t say this for any pity, because I believe I am blessed beyond measure, and in every struggle there is growth. I say this express how dangerous assumptions are.
When people tell us that living car free with a child is unsafe, irresponsible, not practical, or egotistical, first it makes me want to cry, and then it makes me want to scream. Since when did living within our means become irresponsible? When did choosing to fill our bodies with good nutritious food, rather than fill our gas tank become backwards? When did a bicycle become so unsafe, when cars kills thousands of people each year? When did caring about the air my future grandchildren breathe make me a crazy hippy? How does living without a hunk of metal take away my husbands manhood?
Christopher and I both thrive off of questioning social norms. This makes being married and trying new things, fairly easy for us. On our own unique journey we were both deeply convicted about the American lifestyle, specifically the obsession and reliance on the automobile. This internal struggle only got stronger and louder until one day we couldn’t ignore it, and then one day we couldn’t afford it. Ironically, our car payment, gas, and insurance was exactly amount of money we were short each month, but even a car paid in full costs $9,000 a year to maintain. So, I was praying relentlessly for God to provide, to take us out of Casper, and give us more earning potential. I was always under the impression that it takes money to live like you don’t care about or have money. I thought that it takes having just the right job, in just the right neighborhood, with just the right city infrastructure to give up something like a car. While all these things make it much easier, this has not been our story. We were called to bloom where we are planted and live well with what we have been given.
This morning Octave and I rode in the rain to our favorite grocery store. I was fortunate to buy handfuls of fresh produce, herbs, chocolate and even some special cheese. To walk into the grocery store and not only buy exactly what I needed, but also what I wanted was one of the best feelings. After our rough year, I’ve promised to never take that for granted. I remembered that just months ago, going to the grocery store was not so light-hearted and inspiring. I prided myself on budget friendly meals that looked and tasted gourmet, but relentlessly prayed for God to provide more. Yet even in our lowest, most discouraging place, we still were far better off than 40 million Americans.
All this is to say that tonight I finally watched A Place At The Table. I wept like a baby, and then I wept some more. My heart is heavy and I feel the burden of hunger in this country, on my very own shoulders. Hunger exists, and yet most of us don’t even know about it or have to see it. Those of us who know about it fear that there is nothing we can do about it. I am certain that I was not given my love for cooking for me and my family alone. I was not given this passion for food to just post pretty pictures, and share sweet stories. This realization does not diminish the heart and soul that goes into this space. I am a creative being and this is such a fun outlet for me. However, I know it does not end there. I don’t know what this change looks like just yet, but I want to be apart of it!
My personal experience has revealed that riding bikes can create more room in a tight budget for food, and help to maintain a healthy and agile body. It can also make you really happy! I am not suggesting everyone sell their car, I know it is not that simple, and I am not pretending to know what is best for the millions of people who go hungry every day. I know that people have different preferences, circumstances, values, and convictions. I am not interested in telling others how to live. I will however share my own story, and bring light to the fact that the automobile, food crisis and obesity in this country are all deeply connected more than we may realize. Would food deserts, racism and poverty in this country even exist if we weren’t given the opportunity to segregate, spread ourselves out, and build our own kingdoms via the automobile? Maybe, maybe not, but the automobile makes this much easier, and now privileged upper-class people have the ability to stay privileged, and not have to come face to face with those who are not. Like I said earlier, assumptions are really dangerous, and in this country there is an assumption that poverty and hunger is a choice, and anyone can rise above it. We watch Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happiness and think that such a story is possible for everyone, rather than one in a million. This could not be further from the truth.
If you are reading this I encourage you to watch the documentary, A Place At The Table, if you haven’t already, (it’s on Netflix.) If you feel compelled, send an email to Congress to protest against cutting the SNAP program that millions of hungry Americans depend on. It seriously take 2 minutes! Click here to see what else you can do. Let’s end hunger in our neighborhoods, in America, and then the world! No one deserves to go hungry. EVER.