“You are what you consume” said the keynote speaker at George Brown College’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts Student Success Awards. Given that many of the students are preparing to be chefs you might think he meant “you are what you eat”. That thought always kind of scares me, because I know how prone I am to eat food that isn’t so good for me. In fact, on my way home from last night’s event I bought a bag of chips. Ahem. Except that’s not really what he was talking about.

We are a culture of consumption. Many of us have become accustomed to a lifestyle that includes having information at our fingertips and enough disposable income to buy stuff. If we drive (a car OR a bike) we have to consciously think about not being distracted by our handheld device. We consume in other ways too: we are impacted by our surroundings, the people we interact with, the books we read, the television we watch, the work we do. Whether we like it or not, we are shaped by what we consume.

I am a consumer. I desire to create an environment in my home that is comfortable and beautiful. I have an iPhone. I have a closet with more than one outfit in it. I feel challenged daily that I have so much when others have so little. And then I go shopping. Ouch. So, what is the answer? The reality is that I’m still working this out.

Part of working it out for me is learning to place less and less value on the stuff, and more and more of it on the things that really matter. It is about sharing my life in its entirety: my resources, my home and my heart. And not just with people who think and act and look just like me. Important too is that this not become just an exercise in charity. I am not called to only give out of my relative wealth, I am invited to receive out of others (which may or may not have anything to do with money). Working all this out is not an activity that I can do on my own. It is in the context of community that we can collectively learn behaviour that is truly counter-cultural: to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

Justice. Mercy. Humility. Love. Now those are things worth consuming.

Now excuse me, I need to go find something healthy to eat for breakfast.