As Christmas approaches, the pressure is on. The economy is rough. Jobs are insecure or gone. There are many expectations and dreams and hurts and fears in the air. Some hope for a new year with a new president to solve everything. Some just keep running in the rat race after the cheese.

There has been a lot of buzz about sustainability lately. I was recently reading Sky Magazine and there was an article in the latest issue about a couple who worked in New York city, but spent weekends out on their farm that they bought and had been working on. They had chickens and pigs and a garden. They were changing their lifestyle to become more sustainable… not only for the earth, but for themselves.

In that vein, I propose that America, as it is today is unsustainable. The ideals, the values, and the lifestyle of Americans are unsustainable. It hurts the earth, yes, but more than that it hurts the people who are living here. Families are only able to pay their bills by having both parents work outside the house. When only one adult in a family is working, they usually have to work much more than 40 hours a week. Children are raised by their grandparents, by their teachers, by their friends, or by themselves. Commuting to work sucks away the precious hours that could be spent with children and family.

There is little community. There is little neighborly love and relationships. Our common ground is no longer shared life and personal stories, it’s other people’s stories – most of them made up and glamorized. Our common ground is the latest blockbuster, sitcom, or sports event.

Americans spend more money on garbage bags – bought solely for the purpose of discarding – than some countries whole incomes.

It is not life giving. It is not nurturing. It is not strength building. It is a drain, a vacuum, and a deficit. It is unsustainable.

I feel sucked in by it. I guess that’s the problem with a vacuum. I’m torn because a part of me likes to buy whatever I want, whenever I want it. I like eating strawberries in February. I don’t know where the grocery stores get them since I know they ripen in June and July… but I will enjoy them all the same. Would I be fine without them? Yes. That is the real issue… we would all be fine with so much less. Much less than most people would even imagine.

I’ve been to visit and talk with families who live in poverty. I’m not talking about American poverty. In El Salvador I met people who live with 5 people in a room smaller than many a bedroom in this country. People who have no health insurance, very little income, and who built their “home” out of cardboard, sheet metal, and scraps of cloth that they found themselves. The family I talked with included an 89 year old grandmother and a 3 year old little girl. They tried to give me some of their food out of love.

I don’t think that their situation is sustainable either. It must be a very difficult life that they lead, and I’m sure that they would change it if they could. But as Christmas approaches… this year more than ever I am saddened by the consumerism of our country. Yes, it’s wonderful to show your love through gift giving… but consider instead starting to make a change in your own life towards breaking the cycle. I suggest paying off all your debt as the first step. Once that chain is off of your neck you can reach over to your family, your friends, your neighbors, and your world, and bring peace and freedom and goodwill to all men.

What are you doing to make your Christmas and your life more life-giving this year?