Dust

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

Ash Wednesday is always very centering for me, in part because of this reminder given with ashes. My ego can carry me away, making my life frantic with work. This phrase halts me, reminds me of my mortality, begs me to take a deep breath and ground myself in the moment so I don’t lose it. The phrase reminds me that I am elemental, God formed me from the earth and breathed life into me. It helps me feel connected to all things elemental. Instantly, all the superfluous things in my life come into focus as what they are, superfluous.

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

When I lived in Uruguay, the family that I lived with did not have much money. They lived a very simple life, and one of their favorite phrases was, “There are no pockets in coffins.” It was such a lovely reminder to me of what we really need versus what we want. It was a reminder that I am dust, and when I die, I can’t take my stuff with me. It is a mindset that helped me live more freely, not weighed down by possessions that did not serve me.

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

I had a mentor who, when I asked him how he was doing, he used to say, “Well, I am on the right side of the ground!” Now, he did believe in life after death, but he was saying that he was glad to be alive, on earth, moving and breathing dust above ground. He knew that he would be dust on the other side of the ground at some point, but not yet, and he was going to take advantage of his day. We are powerful dust. The thought of our own mortality and help us engage in this life. One way I want to claim that powerful life this Lent is by thinking about my purchasing power. You can, too. Teenagers spend over $5 billion annually in the United States. That is power! How we chose to spend money can be a moral decision. Where and how we spend money can help people, and it can exploit people. We can live in a way that reflects that we know we shall return to dust, but we are powerful dust right now.

“Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

In claiming our purchasing power, we can start with Ash Wednesday! Many churches purchase palms on Palm Sunday and then save them to turn to ashes on the following Ash Wednesday. There is an organization called Eco-Palms which helps churches purchase Fairly Traded palms from Mexico and Guatemala. Ask where your church purchases palms, and if the farmers are getting a fair wage. This Lent, consider joining me in being aware of your purchasing power. In remembering that we are dust, it is a lovely time to slow down, take a look at our purchasing habits, reflect on what we really need, and make sure people we are paying are getting a fair wage for their work.

Teenagers spend a lot of money in the U.S. What do you see your peers purchasing?

What do you spend money on?

When you spend money, where does that money go?

What of your possessions are things that you need?

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