This last weekend, I suddenly became aware of the fact that I don’t know how to give sacrificially.
I have never given food to a food drive until I went hungry, or deprived myself of my favorite treats.
I have never given money to an organization until I was forced to stop spending on something for myself.
I realized that I want to know what it might feel like to give until it hurts, so I spent some time thinking about what we could give up as a family that would “cost” us something on a daily basis. It seemed to me that electricity would be a fun one to try.
Luckily, my family was up for the challenge, so we have spent this last week in darkness.
We’re still using heat, as it would be quite chilly without it, but in all areas, we’re just trying to cut back on how much power we use. At the end of the month, we’ll give the amount of money we saved to a charitable organization.
So basically, when it gets dark at night, we light candles.
When we’re feeling a comfortable temperature, we turn the thermostat down a bit, and get sweaters or blankets out.
When I do the laundry, I hang everything to dry.
When we’re done using an appliance, we unplug it.
When we’re not using the computer, we turn it off.
Pretty much, all those things we all know we should be doing to save energy, but don’t? That’s what we’re doing.
We’re not expecting it to save a ton of money. A 60 watt light bulb uses up $0.01 of energy per hour. Not a whole lot of savings there, but we keep reminding ourselves that it’s not just about the money – it’s about the learning experience.
Here’s what I’m learning so far:
1) I waste energy.
Apparently, I turn lights on all the time, even when I really don’t need them. This surprises me, because I’ve always been the kind of person who’s very diligent about turning lights off when leaving a room, and all that. But it turns out we need light even less than I thought we did.
I never used to think about unplugging appliances when they weren’t in use, but about three days into this experiment, I came into the kitchen, and actually thought, “Oh no! I left the kettle plugged in – what a waste!!” What??! Money-wise, that’s not a huge deal, but it’s very interesting to feel myself not wanting to use something I don’t truly need.
2) I like ease and convenience.
Sometimes, I get grumpy because it takes longer to do things in the dark. And I walked into an open closet door last night because I couldn’t see it. Sometimes, I want to just turn on the lights to get me out of my misery. I don’t want things to be hard, or take effort.
But sometimes, things are worth the effort. Good things come out of hard challenges. I’m a bit disappointed by how quickly I was ready to give up the whole thing. Thank goodness for Ben, who encourages me to keep going when I think the whole idea is silly. Maybe it is silly. But isn’t it good to go without ease and convenience sometimes? Not to punish ourselves, but to experience growth.
3) I like the darkness.
This is a big one for me. I have struggled with Seasonal Mood Disorder for years, and have always dreaded the longer hours of darkness in fall. I would have thought that less lights in the evening would bother me, but I’m finding the opposite to be true. After a week, I am completely loving our evenings of candlelight. We’ll see what happens after Time Change, but for now, I feel as though I’m welcoming the darkness, rather than trying to artificially shut it out.
It makes me feel different about daylight, too. I have this desire to get a ton of stuff done during the daylight hours, because I know I can’t in the evening. As cheesy as it sounds, I feel as though I’m more connected with the natural rhythm of our days.
4) When we save in one area, it’s contagious.
This may be my favorite lesson. When we’re using candles every evening to save on electricity, it makes me want to stop spending in other areas, too.
Suddenly I’m super motivated to budget more, and find ways to save money on groceries, or clothing, or gas…whatever! If we’re putting in a ton of effort to leave the lights off, it seems like such a waste to go blow our money on other stuff.
5) We are so blessed, we have no idea.
There are so many things we take for granted. How many people accept darkness as a part of life, and never flick on a light switch? How often do I think of them? How often am I thankful for electricity?
How many other things do I see as my “right”, rather than a blessing? Clean water, flush toilets, food, clothes, a warm house, a car to drive…the list goes on and on and on. Going without some of these things occasionally may be the only way I can gain back the sensitivity and appreciation I’ve lost…or never had, because I’ve grown up with these blessings at my fingertips.
I have no idea how much this blog post can affect someone – maybe this blessing is just for me, as I wander around the house with my candle. But I would love to encourage you today, as you enjoy the warmth of your house, or flick the lights on this evening: Be grateful. And send up a prayer for those who live with so much less.
I wish you much warmth and light in all you do today!