Living in America, I knew poverty existed. I saw the commercials asking for support of the poor children abroad. Visiting a poor area in South America during a summer in high school didn’t effect my life. Not really the way I thought it should have. I still wasted food. I still took extremely long showers. I wasted my time watching too much television or complaining about being bored. I wasted energy (electricity, gas in my car, etc.). I wasted my money on pointless things.

America is known for waste. Food is wasted. Water is wasted. Time. Energy. Money. Anything we have, we waste it.

It has been eye opening and heartbreaking to see such a different life here, and still I am gripping on to some of my Western ways. If I don’t finish something at dinner, I let it go to waste. I see the judgmental looks of the 服务员 (fu wu yuan – waiter) as I gather my things to leave the restaurant. It is the look that I’ve only seen given to me and other foreigners. Locals in the restaurants I frequent tend to finish all of their food. (I’ve been called something similar to a “lightweight” by my local Chinese friends, because I do not always eat all of my food). Wasting food causes my friends to cringe and squirm.

Being here is teaching me how to waste less food and water (especially when I shower…). It is teaching me how to waste my time less. I still enjoy watching American and British television, but I’m learning how to be with who I’m with and exploit my time for more important things. My time will probably never be used 100% wisely, sadly. However, the longer I am here, the more need I see. The more need I see, the more I want to do. The more I want to do, the less “free” time I have. My time is limited (as is all of our time on this earth – regardless of what faith you follow) and I want to exploit this time of my life and not waste it. I will take the busy and leave the boredom, because I appreciate the silent solitary moments so much more when my time has been used well and for something other than myself (I’m sadly not as selfless as this statement sounds).

Living in America is an amazing privilege that the privileged get and don’t realize what they (we) have. Having stepped outside of that for seven months, I see how hard it is for me to break free from so much of the waste I am accustomed to allowing in my own life. Less waste is always preferable, but it takes conviction, dedication, and self-control to get there. We are almost trained to be tired of left-overs almost before we even eat them. Or even making one large dish to eat for lunch or dinner every day for one week (I did this for almost a year, and people thought it was weird … I lived alone, it was cheaper and easier that way).

This isn’t meant to be a new year’s resolution, but I guess in a way it kind of is – being the new year and all – but I want to waste less this year.

Waste less time.

Waste less money.

Waste less energy (electricity, heat/gas …).

Waste less food.

Waste less water.

Waste less ________.

I want to waste less and appreciate more.


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