Editor’s note: This is the most recent installment of our new blog. We will be asking for insights from people from across the community who have something to say about their experiences, the ongoing state of affairs, or their lives that will speak to our current time together. Today we hear from Jaimie Fales. If you would like to contribute please let us know. — Kathy Jennings, Managing Editor, Southwest Michigan's Second Wave
My grandmother had a lot of margarine containers. I remember stumbling upon an entire cardboard box of them in her basement once. It was full of white, yellow and brown Country Crock and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! containers. She had clearly collected them for quite some time. Her reason? Because you never know when you might need it.
My grandmother lived through hard times. Being born during the Depression, losing a husband in World War II, and witnessing total upheaval of societal constructs during her lifetime had given her a unique lens on life and a set of skills needed for survival. She remembered what it felt like to have less. She had seen what life was like when you have to tighten your belt and get creative.
My grandmother’s skills were passed down to me as I spent most of my time there during school breaks. I can remember being 3 years old and standing on a metal step stool at her counter. She taught me how to measure, mix, and pour batters and doughs for baking. She could get stains out of and mend just about any piece of clothing. She would clean our tennis shoes with Soft Scrub so they would stay white and look new for longer. She taught me how to take care of babies, cook, and keep house.
She did the same for many other children during her life. She passed these skills and knowledge on to children because…"you never know when you might need it.” You never know when you might need to know how to stretch out your food because your budget is thin. You might need to take dinner leftovers to work the next day because you can’t afford to buy lunch. Wouldn’t it be handy to have small food containers (such as old margarine tubs) on hand? These skills will get you through. You can make it work.
I know that some of my grandmother’s wisdom was rooted in fear of scarcity. I also think that it was rooted in a desire to do the very best with what you’re given. It was rooted in a spirit of ingenuity and faith. My grandmother believed in her ability to creatively problem solve and seek possibility. She sought out what could be prepared for or avoided using the most you can even in the least of circumstances.
This attitude has carried me through so much. It is carrying me now when managing a household, protecting my family, educating my son, working from home, and loving my wife well during COVID-19 is challenging me. I use skills my grandmother taught me every single day, especially now.
I believe that we collectively hold wisdom, creativity, and ingenuity to meet the challenge of a global pandemic. I do not believe that COVID-19 is anywhere near done with us yet. Things are going to get harder. I do not think that it will get harder because of scarcity. I believe it will get harder because of greed, resource hoarding, and a lack of infrastructure to redistribute resources.
We can do better. We can figure out what we need to get us through. We can make it work. However, I do not think that we can do this without addressing what got us into this mess. We will not all survive without shaking loose resources from greedy, fearful hands.
We must each choose to open our (often washed, often gloved) hands to one another in solidarity. We must look at all of our resources as being for the good of the many. I think if we look around we might find that we have more than we thought we had stored away, ready for times like these.
Perhaps, like my grandmother’s margarine tubs, intangible things like hope, generosity, and ingenuity can be stored away. You know, because you never know when you might need it.
Jamie Fales is the Administrator for First Congregational Church of Battle Creek.