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Engaging Faith: Practical lesson ideas and activities for Catholic Educators

September 9, 2008

Live More Simply, So Others Can Simply Live

Share with your students a lesson on consumerism from Activities for Catholic Social Teaching by James McGinnis. Focus on the title above—"Live more simply, so others can simply live"—and discuss with the students the relationship between some people living in wealth and most of the people in the world living in poverty. In what ways could one be the cause of the other? How could our living more simply enable the poor to simply live?

Ask the students to read over the list of practical suggestions below and name those they are already doing right now. Ask them to write a plan for the future based these ideas.

Personal Decisions for Countering Consumerism

Some practical ways to counter consumerism

Use public facilities. Use the public library for books and videos and public parks for outdoor fun.

Critique advertising. As a way of resisting the appeal of advertising, talk back to TV commercials, magazine ads, highway billboards. Share some of this with your friends or family.

Enjoy the outdoors. The beauty of creation can delight far more than computer games and video arcades and lots of other consumer “stuff.” Walk or bike in nearby parks. Try hiking and canoeing, and camp out, even in your own backyard sometimes. Enjoy your local botanical gardens and arboretums and visit state and national parks whenever you get the opportunity.

Think before you buy. Are you an impulsive buyer or are you affected by the push to instant gratification? Is there a way you could slow down your shopping habits to allow for some time to reflect about whether you need an item before you purchase it?

Personalize your gifts. Personal “presence” can be more satisfying than purchased presents when we celebrate birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions. Surprise parties, albums with special photos and personal statements, homemade gifts, going to special places with the person being celebrated, etc., are all wonderful alternatives to consumer-oriented rituals.

Shop small. Shop at local stores and thrift stores, buy from local producers (e.g., open air or farmers markets), eat at neighborhood restaurants.

Consider the mall. Malls are everywhere, replacing many local stores and family-owned restaurants. How often and for what reasons do you go to shopping malls?
What functions has the shopping mall taken on in our nation? In your own life?
True or false: shopping malls have become the religious temples of America. Explain.

Institute an “Exchange System.” To reduce the amount of “stuff” you accumulate, for each new item you buy, give away a similar item to someone in need. This works especially well with articles of clothes but can also apply to books, games, CDs, etc.

What else could you do?

Three suggestions as you make your decisions and start putting them into practice:

1. You don’t have to do everything right away, but you should do something. As you get used to simplifying in one area, you can consider other changes. (It’s a journey.)

2. Look for others who can support you—family members, friends, other peers or adults in school, in your neighborhood, or faith community, or wider community. Change is easier, and more enjoyable, when done with others.

3. Make changes that bring you joy. They won’t always be easy, but they should give you a deep sense of satisfaction.

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