This Easter has been a sweet deal for candy manufacturers: more than $2 billion was spent on candy alone this season, and the overall spending on all Easter-related purchases figures to be the second-highest in U.S. history. (I know that I didn’t receive any chocolate bunnies on Easter Sunday, so somebody else has been taking more than their share. ) But it started me thinking about wants and needs and central Easter messages.
That candy cost isn’t exactly chicken feed. By comparison, the total amount of all U.S. aid to Nicaragua in 2017 was $31.3 million, 15% of all that candy. I only offer the comparison here for contrast; neither I nor most Nicaraguans would argue for greater aid dependency on the U.S. But it’s quite a difference in sums when one considers the two categories: resources for basic human living standards in Nica versus Easter candy consumption in the U.S. Setting aside such notions as national boundaries, something seems inequitable in all of that, no matter to what political or economic perspective one may subscribe. Let me elaborate.
I spent a week with my colleague Mark in Nicaragua last month, visiting with rural partners, hearing about their struggles with various harvests, understanding the need for late repayments in several cases, and attending a two-day workshop designed to teach information analysis, so that these producers might go about their work on a more data-driven basis.
Our week did not represent some kind of hight-level financial development. We lunched with them on rice and beans. We spoke with some, in impromptu huddles, about small loans and the most basic tenets of our partnerships: accompaniment, transparency, functioning bodies of governance, broad-based participation, and collaboration within the coops. We described the nature of goals and goal-setting. They asked us about work processes. We laughed some. The interactions may have been at their most basic level, but they were important and appreciated. Basic stuff usually is.
What does any of that have to do with Easter candy sales? Simply this: the sweet taste in the mouth from a dissolving Peep or jelly bean is both artificial and temporary. And it can never take away the bad taste in the mouth from the recognition that we spend more on candy than on the very lives of others who are in significant need for their basic survival. That bad taste comes from recognition that our own lives are made up of moments, moments of priority and precedence, wherein we have the free will to decide how we will spend our time and our money and our spirit. Those decisions impact the impoverished in profound ways, and as importantly, paint the portrait of who we truly are. And they do leave a taste in the mouth, one kind or another.
Last month in Nicaragua I heard the observation of a producer who was considering the raising of a few chickens as a supplement to his coffee-growing efforts. His words of hesitation were like a fist to the gut. “The corn that my hens eat,” he observed, “could be food for my family.” He was not speaking about candy corn.
Easter is a season of resurrection and salvation, of new beginnings and new chances. It is a time of reflection for many about the life and example of Jesus and the basis of those who claim followership of his teaching. It also gives me pause to think about the price of candy and the value of corn….