Tuesday was my day off this week, and I went to Pomoná, a Mayan ruins 30 minutes away. It was my second visit to this ancient, tranquil spot, and for the second time, there were no other visitors. I went there to rest, read, and meditate in solitude.
The first time I visited Pomoná, all I heard were the birds and bugs, the wind, and the occasional voice of a grounds-worker passing through. This time, I was greeted by a strange sound (it’s worth clicking the link, I promise – though maybe not in public without headphones).
Howler monkeys, it turns out, are hilarious. They didn’t make these noises the whole time I was there, though, so I was able to spend some quiet time reflecting on abundance.
Thanksgiving is a settler colonialist holiday, but it is also one of my favorite holidays on a personal and family level. To me, it is a holiday centered around community, gratitude, and abundance. We celebrate and give thanks that we have enough, or more than enough – it’s the holiday with the Cornucopia, the horn of plenty.
So often in our societies – especially in the U.S., where capitalism and individualism are woven deeply into the fabric of our nation – we fall into scarcity thinking. As fish in water, we often don’t even recognize it as such; we have learned to think in terms of competition, scarce resources, and zero-sum games, instead of abundance. Even in the world of social justice and social movements, we often replicate the very patterns we fight against. Non-profits compete to promote their brand and win grants, personal ambition and ego gets in the way of doing what is best for a community as a whole, and on and on.
Here at La 72, I’ve been appreciating the ways in which we practice abundance. There is no limit to the number of people who can stay here, nor to the length of time people can stay. If there are more people than beds, people sleep on mats in the chapel; if there are even more, people sleep on mats on the concrete soccer court. It’s a tight budget, but whether there are 50 people or 250, everyone will be fed three meals per day.
When thinking about cultures of abundance, I am reminded of the John McCutcheon song my parents used to sing to me before bed, Calling All The Children Home. It’s about a family with many mouths to feed, and there’s a line: “There’s always just enough [food], but there’s always room for more [people at the table].” On a sillier note, I am also reminded of a dear friend in D.C. who once ran around a room after a racial justice meeting, holding a dozen leftover oranges, yelling “non-scarcity of oranges!” and giving them away one by one.
Sometimes, though, it is difficult to escape scarcity thinking here – many things truly are scarce at La 72. If I give extra soap to ten people who arrive today, we won’t have any soap to give the next ten people who walk through the door. For me, it’s important to remember that there is indeed abundance in the larger world, we just don’t share resources equitably.
Perhaps we can learn something about sharing from our black howler monkey friends. According to the internet, “Allomothering is a common activity in Black howler monkeys. This is when females of a group display communal care to each other’s infants, carrying, grooming and protecting the babies.” Moral of the story: be like howler monkeys?