Monday, August 18, 2008

Shopping-center-free zone

We live in an area without a shopping center. If you go out looking for entertainment, you won't see brightly illuminated windows with hundreds and thousands of items you supposedly "need" to buy. There's a small food store where I go if we run out of milk during the week, a tiny pizza place we've never visited, a post office, and a goat farm.

The only sounds you will hear during the day are of children playing, or the distant humming of a washing machine. Rarely, a car will pass by. Often we are asked how we can live so far from the biggest and brightest. And yet we love it.

There's, of course, the undeniable fact that staying away from shopping centers actually saves you money. You can, of course, restrict yourself to window-shopping only, but this may become a cause of dissatisfaction when you discover more and more things you would want to buy, and see others buying them (most likely very few of them are real "needs" and the rest are "wants").

Most of all, we love the quiet, unhurried mode of life in our little community. In cities, you might not even know your neighbours. Here, neighbours will spontaneously knock on your door with a fresh home-baked cake. A couple of months ago, a lonely man we didn't know stopped us on our way and asked if he may join us for Shabbat dinner because it feels sad to spend Shabbat alone. We invited him, of course, and it makes me anxious to think of all the lonely people who suffer from lack of attention and company in cold, detached, perpetually hurrying urban surroundings.

What does this have to do with the fact that we rarely visit shopping centers, you ask? Not much, perhaps; it just makes me think of a world where people bought less, gave more, took better care of each other and had more time to spend together. A world where people were more relaxed and had more time for meaningful reflection. A world where hours, activities, thoughts, information and people didn't need to be brutally crammed in order to make good use of the time. I feel most of us have lost or never knew this world, and now dearly and painfully miss it.

In this world, less money was earned and spent, not thanks to some magical trick, maybe not even thanks to careful budgeting. People were simply content with less, and didn't work upon instant gratification. Thus, life was more relaxed. Instead of being isolated in cells of lonely existence for the sake of self-fulfillment, couples, families, generations and communities worked together.

... I realize this is not a very coherent post (baby brain... now it's official. :-) Bear with me). I would like to finish with a link to a website where you can read the book The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto. I started reading it yesterday and find it very enlightening - as you know I don't live in the United States, yet I find that John Gatto's voice holds many truths about the public schooling system in general. Just one quote:

Before you hire a company to build a house, you would, I expect, insist on detailed plans showing what the finished structure was going to look like. Building a child’s mind and character is what public schools do, their justification for prematurely breaking family and neighborhood learning. Where is documentary evidence to prove this assumption that trained and certified professionals do it better than people who know and love them can? There isn’t any.

15 comments:

Mrs. Parunak said...

What a beautiful post, Anna! And what a great reminder of what we give up when we start going after all the "stuff" we want.

Diana said...

What you described is the kind of life my family is striving to live. I feel more content now that I don't shop for recreation than I have in years. Thanks for the continued inspiration!

USAincognito said...

Sometimes moving away from the hussle and bustle of the busy city can be a good thing for the soul. That is why I like to go camping on my days off. And since my days off are in the middle of the week, I usually have the campground and state park all to myself! So peaceful!! And a great time to rejuvenate. :)

Gothelittle Rose said...

I live so far away from anything that I need a car to get milk home from the nearest store before it spoils. :) With gas prices high, of course, I try to limit my driving to once a week.

It sure gives me an appreciation for all the things that can be done around the house and all the simple entertainments that don't require spending money!

Mrs. Maybrook said...

I grew up in a rural community and remember how slow and easy life was. Even with all the work of farming and homekeeping we always had time for spur of the moment guests. Sometimes, work never even stopped, especially when it involved housework. My mama would offer refreshment and go about her work while still making a guest feel at home. Daddy would get off the tractor and visit, but Mama would go right on with the dishes, ironing, canning whatever. No one ever seemed to mind and we certainly didn't mind when it was the other way around. Five minutes away was a gas station with milk and sundries, a pizza parlor, and a video rental store.

I miss that place, but try to cultivate the slowness and easiness of that life here in the suburbs, though.

lady jane said...

"...the hum of a washing machine..."

This reads lovely. I long for quiet.

Ways of Zion said...

Thank you for your lovely posts. I haven't been able to comment lately (Bat-el is teething)but wanted to thank you for them. Often they provide a fresh breeze in my weary day to read of another soon to be young mom striving to live simply and content.

Thanks again!

ROSIE said...

We have 3 acres of land in the country, outside a small town of less then 3,000 people. I love it. Long ago I lived in the Washington DC area, and spent on average 3.5 hours per day driving from here to there! Shopping was around every corner. I love our country, community way of life so much that I hate having to drive 3 miles "into town" for things sometimes! :)

Bethany Hudson said...

Sometimes I dream of living in a place like yours, Anna. As God would have it, though, my husband is a computer engineer, so we are condemned to live at least NEAR a big city for the rest of his working years! I don't really mind. It's nice to be near to grocery stores and things. And, cities have their own loveliness about them; I have lived in cities most of my life. Though, I confess, I prefered my brief years in the country best. When Brian retires, we plan to move out to the Island County here in Western WA and open a bed-and-breakfast together...then I'll have my peace and quiet and endless opportunities for hospitality!
~Bethany

The Quiet Life said...

Ah, I remember baby brain, lol! Though at the time, I would have said huh? what are you talking about? I will definately have to check out the book.

Katy said...

I have been on both sides of this fence. I was home schooled, and am now a Special Education teacher. Public education has been around a very long time. Anyone remember the little school house on Little House on the Prairie? :) I definitely will not say that public education is anywhere near perfect...but sometimes I wonder why it has become such a concern of late. Many home schooling, stay at home moms believe that public eduction is un-Christian for instance.

Anonymous said...

A good post, Anna. We can miss so much of real living when we become ensnared by the belief that buying things will solve our problems. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this!

I tried to leave you a comment yesterday...about "baby brain", as you put it. I just wanted to say that the same thing happened to me after our second baby was born. I was writing some notes & could NOT remember our address...not even one digit of it, nor the name of the road! There have been times I became confused about things while I was pregnant (with all my children), but nothing like what I've just described. It actually scared me a little. Thank goodness I had no repeat episodes!

Brenda

Mrs. Anna T said...

Bethany: my husband is a computer engineer too! :-) However, Israel is small and distances are short, so we live less than an hour away from the nearest city.

Coffee Catholic said...

Anna! You live in the same kind of paradise as me!!!

I didn't think to ask for your new address so I sent a wee gifty for you and the baby to your mom's address. I sent it about a week ago. I hope it arrives!

**HUGS** Hello from my baby to yours!

MarkyMark said...

Anna,

To save money, I started working on my motorcycles more; I figured I could do routine maintenance myself, rather than paying someone else to do it. When I did so, I was reminded of the old adage: the more things you own, the more they own YOU...

For example, I had two motorcycles. I sold one of my bikes, because it didn't look like I'd be able to afford to keep both of them. In retrospect, I was wrong; I got some unexpected overtime, a raise, plus I was able to make other budget cuts (in medical expenses) that I wasn't sure were feasible at the time I had to make my decision. That's water under the bridge though; what's done is done. Having said that, I'm glad I only have to look after the simpler, smaller motorcycle that I kept, and not the other one along with it. The one I kept keeps my hands full enough. Again, the more things you own, the more they own you...

MarkyMark