Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Ads, TVs, Cereals & Shampoos

I'm sure that you can chalk this one up to cultural shock, but I'm going to pretend that it's not and attribute my thoughts (sorry Rene, I can't stop this whole thinking pattern I have established) to my attempts to make sense of things and learning to establish new ways of living.

It all started with the opening of the Sunday Morning paper and encountering the specific and familiar smell of ad's. Sunday morning ad's. I remember as a kid my sister's and I would sit outside on our screened in porch facing the old barn/garage and clip coupons for my mom from these ad's. Ad's for lunch meat, cheese, dressings, shampoos & soaps, detergent & toothpaste. So many coupons. So many ads from Kroger to Meijer, Target to Wal-Mart, Best Buy to Staples. So many ads for so much stuff.

My friend Erin wrote on her blog recently about her introduction back home (Australia) and the shock of walking through the isle's of a local supermarket and being given such a large selection of mayonnaise. Like Erin, I have been overwhelmed with the mass number of selections available for anything I could ever possibly want and/or need.

In search of a GPS for a friend living overseas we found our way to the electronics section of Wal-Mart yesterday to ask if they sold any hand-held simple GPS units. As we made our way toward the back of the store I was overcome with the number of DVDs for sale, radios to choose from & CDs released. What really stuck me though was the number of TVs. I think I was immune to this circus of parading images surrounding me every time I went shopping before. But for some reason, now it's different. No wonder we're now in an age of limited attention spans. TVs of all shapes, sizes, depths and pixels are available everywhere and scream from up above (at least in Wal-Mart) for my attention. Without even noticing I found myself standing still, eyes pasted until Jake came back from talking with a customer assistant and told me they only sold car GPS units (yes, they are of coarse completely different items - like Cheerios are to Toasted Oats!) and we left.

Speaking of cereals, as we were heading out of Target (still looking for those darn hand held GPSs) I made the mistake of carrying myself down the cereal isle (crap - was that Target of Wal-Mart, I can't remember), and I do mean "carry" because that's exactly what Jake had to do to me as I became overwhelmed with the vast number of selections available for our favorite (well, my favorite) breakfast meal. Strawberry Mini-Wheats! Who knew? I couldn't help but long for the days in India where porridge was our morning cereal selection and bananas were the only topping available. Sure, Jake and I both dreamed at times of sprinkling blueberries on our porridge, but we were always grateful and deeply enjoyed the bananas. Really, how many selections of cereal are necessary and how uncomfortable and/or angry would I get if "they" (whoever "they" are) decided that only 20 particular cereals were necessary and stopped producing the rest? I hate to say it, but if they decided to discontinue the production of Bran Flakes, I think I would be angry. That's sad to me.

(note: I just took a break to make-out with my lovely husband, it was delightful.)

So I just got a hair cut (thank you mother-in-law) for the first time this year. It's short once again and so light. So with new sensitivity towards my hair, as we were walking down the isle (of where, I have no clue - there are running together in my mind now) I noticed the brand new bottles for both Suave and Herbal Essence shampoos! There so beautiful & sleak, colorful & catching, I was a sucker. Not only for the new look for the the vast selections of smells and hair type specific shampoos available. Flat, curly, blonde, brown (did you know they have a shampoo out for only brunettes?), cucumber-melon, strawberry, spit-end, dry, oily - it's all there. In India, for the average citizen, there are a few selections of shampoos to choose from. Most in single use packets, few in bottles. But at the most, a selection of 5-8 would be average to choose from. And still I wonder the same of shampoos as I do of cereals. Is this all really necessary? If not, how disappointed would I be if they discontinued the cheap Lavender Suave I like and decided to only sell the $5.00 a bottle fancy Vidal Sassoon?

Ads, TVs, Cereals & Shampoos. I'm really being challenged since coming back to the States how much of what began to be second nature to me is really necessary in life. How much is luxury? How much is needed to truly live and love others through Christ? I'll attempt my best to taper down on these entries, I promise. In the meantime though, thank you for living through this transition with us. We appreciate it/you.


Robin said...

Hi Jessica (and Jake too)

Your thinking is good for you and good for us who live in luxury. Maybe through your experiences we who live here with all the choices will learn to make the best choices. Choices that lead others to Jesus. I know some people think it doesn't matter what you do as long as you are a Christian, but I think it does matter. If we are spending our income solely on us and our pleasures how is that doing anything for God. Even when we pop $10 or $20 in a special offering on top of our normal tithe its not a sacrifice at all...it just enough to soothe our conscience and make us feel good.

We do need a wake up call... Thanks Jessica for not being afraid to say whats on your heart and mind. But your not one to be afraid of that are you :)

Love ya,


Anonymous said...

Ok, first of all I love you!!!!

Now, I know (and I think you know too) that you are experiencing culture shock. YES, America is a country of excess, it does put a high value on MANY choices, it is, sometimes, more interested in the latest Paris Hilton crisis than it is in the war in Iraq.

However, I beleive that it is still the best country in the world, and just because we live here, we should not be "lumped" in with others who choose to buy the most expensive products or live in excess. I think America is a great country BECAUSE we have these choices.

However, there is a lot we as Christians can do about these choices. We can choose to live the simple life like Jesus, we can choose to use our wealth, not to lavish ourselves in excess, but to help our neighbor.

“If one of your countrymen becomes poor and is unable to support himself among you, help him as you would an alien or a temporary resident, so he can continue to live among you. Do not take interest of any kind from him, but fear your God, so that your countrymen may continue to live among you…”
—Leviticus 25:35-36

I know the two of you have a lot to digest as you return to the land of "excess". However, remember that not all Americans live this way, and many of those that do, use their wealth to help their fellow countrymen.



PS I like it when you "think"

Robin said...

Hey Jessica,

On a lighter note, I do like all the options because I'd hate to have to buy the $5 shampoo. And you know I'd have to have my Kashi cereal :) Oh and just in case you are wondering...flax can be your friend. You have got to try my flax cookies... Remember the strawberry cake I made for you the first time you came to my house.

Hope you are enjoying your visits with friends and family.



elle & josh said...

when i returned from 3 years in peru in '02 (& when i returned in '87 at age 10) i stopped in the cereal aisle & sobbed. it's always the cereal aisle that gets me. being an indecisive person in the first place, i was so overwhelmed by the choices! now i'm a shredded wheat girl in the summer, an oatmeal girl in the winter. i keep it simple. my brother, however, has taken his missionary-kid-upbringing-with-limited-cereal-options to the extreme opposite direction. he always has 15-20 varieties of cereal on hand at any given time. he was so fed up with lack of choices in our childhood that he'll never be left optionless again! i DO enjoy an indulgent bowl of cocoa krispies whenever i visit him, though!