Breathe Out: Share More

Here Steph shares a Breathing Out practice for our Breathing In & Breathing Out series, read her Breathe In post here. Steph is a South African-American. She blogs at Bridging Hope about race, missions, social justice, community development, simplicity, & what following Jesus looks like.
South Africa, where we live, has been shaped by years of people taking. First the Dutch, then the British, then the Afrikaner-led Apartheid government took pieces of land, took natural resources, took livelihoods, took men away from families, took dignity…
From governments taking land and renaming it, to individuals buying beachfront property and putting up fences, our history is full of people trying to claim ownership.
In post-apartheid South Africa, we’re still struggling with a spirit that wants to claim ownership of anything we can. There’s security in ownership. You know your little family will be safe with their private home, private schooling, and private healthcare. South Africa has extremely high levels of inequality. We have extremely low levels of social trust. We have to own things ourselves because we don’t trust anyone else to share if we have need.
What does “breathing out” look like in this context? One idea our family came up with was: “Own less, share more.”
At first, I really concentrated on the “own less” part. We live in a tiny house. We have “minimal” possessions (still more than most people in the world!). We only have one car. I felt that by owning less, I would excuse myself from some of the guilt that accompanies the privilege of being white and wealthy in South Africa today. And I do still think we should struggle against the relentless spirit of consumerism that surrounds us. But lately, I’ve been thinking how meaningless the first part –Own Less–is, without the second part—Share More.
So what if I own less? Minimalism is just another elite lifestyle choice. It’s a personal identity-creator. Sure, it helps the environment. And a physically small space forces me to keep my consumerism in check. But “own less” by itself is still just all about me. If I save loads of money living in my tiny house, but spend it all on lavish vacations- has that done any good?
Share More. Sharing is the opposite of taking. Sharing says, “there’s enough here for everyone.” Sharing sometimes requires sacrifice on our part. It requires a shift in perspective- from “me” to “we”. The individual might have less, but the community has more. If maintaining our big house and multiple cars keeps us from sharing, it’s a problem. But equally so, if owning less makes it impossible to share, it’s also become a problem!
Right now in our lives, sharing looks like helping to open a community park and investing in the messiness of mobilizing volunteers and donations to keep it up and running, rather than building our own private jungle gym in the back yard. Sharing looks like walking to work most days and chatting to the people along the way—but also offering rides to people in our small group who don’t own a car. Sharing looks like making space in our schedule to have people over for meals, even if they aren’t in our immediate friend group. Sharing looks like giving a portion of our income to community development. Sharing looks like library books, rather than our own bookshelves. It looks like paying our nanny a living wage. We don’t get it right all the time.
But seeing the small (and growing) pile of sandpit toys in our community park that people have left behind for other kids to use gives me hope. Each little shovel and bucket is a sign that our community is starting to share. It’s starting to trust. It’s starting to believe that ownership isn’t everything.

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