How often do you return for seconds
As a quiet observer with a little patience life does offer up some interesting and sad insights to humanity. My work provides opportunities-a-plenty to experience the raw side of life on the lowest rung of the socioeconomic ladder. The soft humility of Christmas has been highjacked by consumerism and greed promoted through multimedia platforms from TV advertisement to pre-Christmas junk mail of stores peddling overpriced goods touted as items ‘no child should be without’. As children soak up the propaganda like sponges parents are placed in a pressure cooker of financial strain. If no child should be without and this child does go without, what does that tell the child about the parents’ and their care of them. Each year many families have budgeted diligently so as to receive their Chrisco Christmas packages. Those parents deserve accolades. Their efforts to provide for their family have been a great sacrifice and parents are proud of their ability to plan ahead and provide an assortment of festive foods, lollies, grocery items and toys. Most parents would prefer to go without rather than see their children not receive what they have asked for. Not many of those families would have a budget that stretches to seconds.
Some Christmases ago the MOTH (man of the house) and I volunteered to serve at the Community Christmas Lunch in Newcastle (Australia). The preparations started the night before as teams of volunteers set over 120 tables, cordoned off play areas, set up drink stalls and the temporary kitchen. Early the next morning the chillers arrived with donated food and other volunteers started to arrive and prepare for their day to serve the community. The MOTH was assigned kitchen duties (which he loved) and I helped on the registration desk, meeting and greeting (which I loved). We had a wonderful day. It was one of the most memorable Christmases for all the right reasons. Families who had no one with whom to share Christmas, those who couldn’t afford a Christmas meal and some families turned up on the day to help out in any way they could. It was an interesting day for many reasons. However, what I did notice was that as the day drew to a close the remaining food was packaged into takeaway trays, each tray had a full Christmas dinner, and those who needed extra meals could take them home. One mother came with her son and she must have known the drill because she came with a large grocery bag which she filled with take home meals. Seeing me watching her she turned and smiled: These will go in our freezer and we’ll eat well until they run out. In her home seconds were probably never available, everything eaten in the one and only course.
Ah, yes, seconds. Oliver Twist, the story Charles Dickens’ wove around an orphan who late inspired a musical that is one of my favourites. The communal gasp in response to Oliver’s audacious request for a second helping of gruel was filled with tension and disbelief. His was an audacious ask but he was genuinely still hungry. When I ask for seconds, or simply help myself, I am not returning to the table because I’m still hungry. I’m returning because I am enjoying the taste of the food. In some cultures to refuse seconds is to insult the hostess but in those cultures where this isn’t so I feel it’s greed that drives me to ask for seconds. If we’re out for a meal there are usually two courses so I order an entree size main to have room for a dessert, or I have two entree size meals. I don’t ask for seconds at a restaurant (can you imagine) but sometimes I do when at a friend’s home.
At our bi-monthly team meetings we congregate around a groaning table of stuff. You couldn’t call it food because there is nothing nutritious on offer. There’s the chocolate fountain with marshmallows, chocolate biscuits, lollies, chips, sausage rolls, puff pastries, you get the picture. Those of us who stand in disgusted awe bring our salad boxes (okay Polyanna) and watch. It reminds me of a frightful movie I saw as a young adult; one of those boutique fringe movies called The Discrete Charm of the Bourgeoisie; about middle-class gluttony and excess. Around the team meeting table seconds are left way behind as thirds, fourths and even fifth helpings are laughed off.
A thought provoking prompt. Next time I leave my chair to go the second round I’ll remember this post and hopefully sit back down. But perhaps the most telling reason any of us returns for seconds is because we can.