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My Year of No Shopping

If you stop thinking about what you might want, it’s a whole lot easier to see what other people don’t have. There’s a reason that just about every religion regards material belongings as an impediment to peace. This is why Siddhartha had to leave his palace to become the Buddha. This is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor.” It’s why my friend Sister Nena, an 85-year-old Catholic nun, took a vow of poverty when she entered the convent at 18. Sister Nena was my reading teacher when I was in the first grade, and in the years since, she has taught me considerably more. When I ask her if there’s anything she needs me to get for her, she shakes her head. “It’s all just stuff,” she says, meaning all of the things that aren’t God. If you’re in the market for genuine inspiration on this front, I urge you to read “ Barking t o the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship ,” by Gregory Boyle, a book that shows what the platitudes of faith look like when they’re put into action. The things we buy and buy and buy are like a thick coat of Vaseline smeared on glass: We can see some shapes out there, light and dark, but in our constant craving for what we may still want, we miss life’s details. It’s not as if I kept a ledger and took the money I didn’t spend on perfume and gave that money to the poor, but I came to a better understanding of money as something we earn and spend and save for the things we want and need. Once I was able to get past the want and be honest about the need, it was easier to give more of my money to people who could really use it.

For the original version including any supplementary images or video, visit https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/15/opinion/sunday/shopping-consumerism.html

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