As I begin thinking about things in my life that are disposable, two values really jump out at me: 1) speed and 2) convenience. We often opt for disposable things because they offer a level of speed that is not otherwise available with things reused. Easy example: our food choices.
I have been sitting at La Madeleine this morning having breakfast. Though the napkins are one-time use things, the plate, flatware and water glass are shared items. They have been used and will be used again. It’s a slower way to eat, especially in contrast to fast food items designed to be be consumed and leave behind a waste trail of bagging, wrapping, condiment tubes, cups and straws.
It’s easy to recognize the enormous waste produced by fast food. It takes a little more effort to recognize the toll on our lives by a food system driven by speed. I believe that our appreciation of food suffers, and therefore our appreciation of what food does for us suffers, and therefore we suffer. All to be a little faster, cheaper or have a bit more convenience.
My mother’s parents grew food. They weren’t the typical American farmers out in Middle America, but they lived in a suburban city near Dallas and farmed a modest little couple of acres in town where housing development couldn’t happen, and a good chunk of their back yard. My grandparents also kept bees. He was a carpenter by trade, she a seamstress, so I think the idea of patient craftsmanship was easily extended to food. I remember both my grandparents working hard, but I don’t remember them being frantic. Ever.
Disposable things are feeding the beast of haste in our lives. Disposable things are making it too easy to rush through important times and segments of the day. If we begin the day devaluing the very food we eat and rushing through the first nourishment we will provide ourselves, how do we later slow down and become appreciative?
Speed is deceptive. Speed can be alluring and exciting. Speed can give the impression of importance and power. But speed will also do what speed always does: it leaves things behind. Perhaps our rejecting the disposable food experience is a good step toward affirming that there are not “disposable times” in our day. Each moment is valuable. Each moment is a gift.