Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sam's Club

I heard a story once about a man from India. It was his first time in a grocery store. An American grocery store. Apparently, he was walking down the bread aisle. He looked to his left, and to his right. He saw loaves of white bread, wheat bread, honey wheat bread, and so many more flavors that he couldn’t count them.

There was so much bread that he began to cry.

I was helping my mother shop at such a store yesterday. Have you ever stepped inside a Sam’s Club? It’s just like Wal-Mart, but not as pretty. Concrete floors, metal shelves, and ugly freezers are the norm. Without the shiny white walls and decorations that populate most stores, the goods for sale are thrown in stark focus.

There is a blistering array of food. Huge shelves overflow with cans, bags and boxes full of it. I can walk down one aisle and find myself in a white tunnel of flour and sugar bags, stacked high and running down for what seems like a hundred feet. I walk down another one, and see crates full of apples, oranges and bananas, ripe and beautiful and begging to be bought. The candy aisle alone is stuffed with so many bright colors and names that I don’t know where to look first.

It was one of the most disgusting things I had ever seen in my life. This is too much surplus for any human nation.

I don’t have to tell you about the woes of what we call the Third World. But I will ask you how much you think about them. I’ll honest, to encourage you to do the same. I never think about the people who starve from day to day. I’m too comfortable. Why should I have to worry about the pains of others when they’re so far away? Elie Wiesel puts it even better.

“Is it necessary at times to practice it simply to keep one's sanity, live normally, enjoy a fine meal and a glass of wine, as the world around us experiences harrowing upheavals?”

I can’t answer that. What I can do is wonder why we have so much, and others so little. The poor may always be with us, but that does not excuse us from action, does it? If the American people rationed their food and sent the rest to countries that need it, what would happen? I like the idea of it, myself. I can put up with tightening my belt a little bit, if helps out someone else. At the very least we can store some of this food in case a drought hits, or some other disaster kills food production.

Can't we?


  1. They only stock that much food because people buy that much food. Sam's club doesn't display a bunch of bread to be conspicuous. Also, though we must give to the poor, an American eating a slice of bread does not mean that an Indian is going to go without a slice.

  2. No, but if we ate only as much as we needed and gave the rest to whoever needed it, the Indian would appreciate us very, very much.

    This is all a big utopian dreamworld of mine. It's not going to happen. I just wanted to throw it out there to see what people thought.

  3. I'm sorry if I came across as overly critical. Obviously a more just distribution of goods is to be preferred.

  4. Oh, you didn't. Thanks for challenging me!