Friday, 25 June 2010

Money and worth and so on again.

At Nearest Church I'm in the process of trying to negotiate a contract for playing the organ. The rate that they pay is significantly below the going rate for this area of London, and that has consequences for me and for the longer-term viability of music at Nearest Church.

I'm finding it all very uncomfortable. You see, I wish I didn't have to deal with money. I'd like to be able to do all of my work for free. All of it is work I would do if I didn't need the money. I think if we were all generous enough with our time and energy, we wouldn't be so dependent on transactional labour... and I know that if I want that generosity to come about, I need to be willing to be generous even when others aren't.

I mentioned this to a friend today and her response was, "How are you going to live if you don't get paid?" which is quite a reasonable question.

I bit my tongue and changed the subject, got on with the task at hand. But my first thought, and the one that has been nagging at me since, was Why should I live and another not?

Why should I have enough to eat when there are people in the world who starve because of my food choices? Why should I have a roof over my head when there are people who are sleeping rough? I am not better than they are, I am not somehow more deserving. I know that with every fibre of my being. So why am I blessed with material abundance, a garden to grow my vegetables in, a safe bed to sleep in, medication to treat my nagging chronic health problems? By many people's standards I am not wealthy, but to those who are starving, those who are homeless, those who have no access to medical care, I am incredibly, unimaginably rich.

Why should I live so well?

So I eat out of a local veg box scheme, grow some of my own veg in the back garden, don't drive at all, try to buy fair trade for those things I can't get from local sources, try to be moderate in my consumption of electricity... but it is still my privilege to do those things. I have a choice only because I am already rich. Do these little things help enough to make a difference? If I'd make a bigger difference by giving it all away, shouldn't I do that? When I tell myself my skills are best used where I am, is that me being sensible, or is that me running away, crossing to the other side of the road? Do I live as I do out of obedience, using available resources to create a lifestyle that can sustain the work I am meant to be doing, or out of fear, turning away from the call to give away what I have?

Even having the time to think about these things seems like a completely undeserved luxury.

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