It was meal time and we knew we had to clear the fridge of leftovers. Normally this is a favorite of mine—a mini smorgasbord of tempting delights. But on this night we came across more than expected. There were forgotten containers at the back of the fridge that had gone overlooked too long.
It happens. You check on the contents of the vegetable crisper, pop the lid on a container, or open a carton of milk and you quickly discover what's inside has spoiled. Sometimes the aroma is the tell-tale sign and sometimes it's the multi- coloured growths sprouting all over it that lets you know it has gone bad.
There is much discussion in our country about determining when food is still safe to eat and when it should be tossed. Those dates that get imprinted on all of our food continue to be misunderstood because there is a big difference between ‘best before’ and ‘expiry’ dates. A move to eliminate some of these might reduce food waste since a lot is being thrown away unnecessarily.
Food has a way of letting us know when it has spoiled, but there are other types of spoiling that aren’t quite as easy to spot. We may think we can see it, but perhaps we are looking in the wrong direction.
We often talk about the spoiling of children. Becoming spoiled evokes ideas of being self-centered and demanding. Yet psychologists caution casual observers to not be so quick to assume a child is spoiled when confronted by difficult behaviour since there could be other factors at work. Nonetheless, the term is often applied to describe a child who is overly indulged, manipulative, or who has no sense of gratitude for what they have. But let’s not be too quick to call out the 'spoiled children' or ‘entitled teenagers’ in our midst, because we may need to take a second look.
To end up spoiled--someone had to do the spoiling. To lived entitled--someone must have made them feel that they were inherently deserving of privilege or special treatment.
Think about those ideas. Privilege. Special treatment.
If that's the case it starts with the person looking back at me in the mirror because when it comes to privilege and special treatment, I am at the top of the list.
The Canadian Elections Act says I am entitled to vote. Canadian Labour Law says I am entitled to a vacation. A search on a Government of Canada website came up with 20, 600 occurrences of the word entitled. It doesn’t stop there. We have protections under the law, rights in regard to freedoms, and a host of civil liberties. Most of these we likely don't think too much about since they are entrenched in how we live. There is an uproar when any of these are violated, yet rarely an expression of gratitude as they are lived out day-to-day. Hmmm, kind of like the "spoiled child" who is unaware of how different their life is from most.
So what is it we should feel entitled to? Clean water? Why us, and not the two billion people who don't. Health care? Why us, and not at least half of the world’s population that cannot obtain essential health services. Comfortable homes and full refrigerators? Why us, and not the one billion people in the world who live on less than $1.00 a day; or the Canadians who made the 1,462,795 visits to food banks across our country in 2022. By these standards, I am spoiled. I have so much that others simply don't, and there is no easy answer as to why.
I happen to live somewhere that makes these things seem like a given. But they are not. In many places they are extraordinary luxuries. Unattainable. Therein lies the issue--thinking these things are a given, or always will be. There is no guarantee that this will always be true. So I best be cautious with how I use water; how I treat my health; and be mindful of what I already have before I go purchase more.
If I live like I am entitled I put it at risk, because I am neglecting to place value on it. Entitlement can fester inside us, causing a rot to grow, and that attitude leads to spoilage. It's root? Ingratitude and selfishness.
We are the beneficiaries of so much, so we need to be stewards of it all. Like anything potentially perishable it requires attention and vigilance. If we don't--it is more than our fruits and vegetables that risk spoiling. That's my outlook.