Thanks-giving goes around

Allan David Smith-Reeve, Saturday October 13th, 2018

Two moons ago we began living on half our usual income. Essentially it was the two of us living on $250 per week – after paying our housing costs. Still not bad compared with our friends living on Social Assistance. Still great compared with world averages.

For Lynn, the option of borrowing money on our line of credit against future hopes of income flowing was a non-starter. As a “pessimistic realist” she does not count on any chickens while they’re still eggs. Life has taught her tough lessons about hoping for the best – but preparing for the worst.

So, we started “tightening the belt” as we say.

  • Alcohol was the top of the list to cut out. Our wine-making shop supplies were low – but no new order.
  • Restaurants and Take-out are very occasional for us already. Now they were off the list.    
  • Food choices changed. Local organic became a luxury beyond our means.
  • No new clothing.
  • No oil changes. I had the tools and the time. Fixing the cruise control that just quit wasn’t a priority.
  • The already overdue roof shingling got postponed until…
  • The deck repairs would have to wait til we could save money for lumber.
  • Gas money travelling to Ottawa to visit family, or our Kinmount camp – we had to count our coins…
  • Birthday presents? We had time now to get crafty.

Was this a crisis?


In my morning prayers I remained thankful for the home and food and clothing we enjoy. I laughed at God’s sense of humour. Teaching me about living with less while I was preaching it every chance I got.

The Greenwood congregation is thirsty for “green theology”. “God’s creation is our inspiration” goes their tagline. If you follow that path, you soon arrive at “green economics”.

This Sunday Jesus tells the rich young man to give away his wealth and follow him. “You’re still lacking one thing.” Jesus tells him.

The Bridges out of Poverty work that we’re neck deep in at Bedford House has us examining the cultures of poverty, middle-class, and wealth. Our friends are getting used to hearing us talk about the “hidden rules” Lynn and I encounter as our lifestyle choices clash. My middle-class white-boy privileges give me confidence that things will eventually work out. Lynn raised her five kids on social assistance while caring for her disabled husband. She knows that prayers do not always translate into food on the table.

A friend at our Thanksgiving table asked son Micah about growing up in poverty. He talked about the scars of being on the “have-not” side of things – linking his current health issues to a poverty diet. But then the prophet Micah said “When you don’t have money – you spend your time on the things that money can’t buy.”

In my own “have-not” list above, I failed to also list the time I would have to spend – if I was no longer chasing the buck, pouring my life into work, work, work. Friends, neighbours, extending my family, stories, art, literature, music, walks, play…rest. None of these things cost (much) money. And none of these things cost the earth.

The one thing we lack – when we spend our time spending – is what we find in community – everything that money can’t buy.

But now… due to the generosity of our Bedford House community and our wider faith community, we are back at work, work, working to grow community. Averaging sixty hours a week each – our time is stretched thin.

Into an already tight schedule I just got offered six hours of teaching at Fleming College’s Social Service Worker program. Six hours of pay translates into more like eighteen hours of work at least. But it means that we can hire a graduate from that program to do my Bridges work. (Kat who produced the video you’ve all seen right?  She’ll join our team of three Awesome Interns as we prepare to start another Bridging Poverty Team in January.

So, thanks to our community…the money is flowing again…

  • And so is the wine. Our local family-owned wine-making shop got our new order.
  • Local organic veges went into sixty jars of salsa & chilli sauce, zucchini relish & loaves, and…
  • Lynn could buy an appropriate suit to celebrate the weddings she’s officiating this fall.
  • Garage owner Jamie hired a new front office staff person (because of our oil changes?) 
  • We’re in the market for a local roofer.
  • The deck repairs will proceed – if I can find the time!
  • Repaired cruise control helps on those trips to Ottawa to visit family, and our Kinmount camp.
  • Birthday presents? Chili sauce anyone? How about honey? Or wine?
  • We enjoyed a meal this weekend from our favourite Wee Wok Chinese take-out.

Who’s got time to cook? We’re madly writing grant proposals and figuring out how to make it appealing to donors to keep our Awesome Interns learning & working.

So, while we once again have that first-world problem of not enough time – we also give thanks that your generosity is not only keeping us going – but is also going round and round in our local economy.        

In November I’ll be working through a study called “A World of Enough” from the Mennonites. It poses third world issues in first world questions of time, money, and just how much is enough?

Good question eh?