Community Pantries: Breaking the Myth of Scarcity (Full Text)

It was April 14 when social media first saw the Maginhawa Community Pantry. The concept was simple, take items that you need, and leave some for others wo need.

On its first day, Ana Patricia Non, the organizer of the pantry shared her experience:

Some people have iniquiries and doubts regarding the honestry and character of people. They worry some may take advantage and hoard…
Here’s what I observed earlier:

A homeless person took two oranges, others offereed that he can take more. He said, “this is enough for me to eat.”

(Ang daming inquiries and doubts tungkol sa honesty at ugali ng mga tao baka daw pakyawin ng isa o di talaga mga mahihirap at kumuha…

Eto pa ang na-obeserve ko ngayong umaga:
Homeless na kumuha ng 2 orange nag-offer yung iba nakumuha pa sya. Sabi nya “eto lang naman ang kakainin ko”.)

Two days after, community markets began to sprout in different locations with photos shared in social media. There were also a group of farmers giving free produce for others. People started to send donations in cash and in kind. A movement of generosity has gone viral.

Much of our modern world has bought in to the myth of scarcity. Resources are not enough and this we operate on a framework of lack; we hoard what we do not need and leave nothing to those in need.

In contrast, our indeginous worldview operates on a narrative of abundance. Edilberto Alegre describes this world view in the book Kinilaw. There he said,

“Abundance… dictates a way of live, an attitute: you take only what you need, what you can consume. Just like air—you inhale only as much as you need.

in abundance, one practices restraint, oneness with the environment, balance: the morality of satisfaction with what is enough. Greed is alien to those who grow plentitude. They are secure in their faith in abundance.

We can only ingest so much and remain healty. Beyond tolerable limit, gluttony penalizes our bodies. Correct balance—therefore neither a lack nor a surfeit—insures continued well-being.

Kinilaw asserts this every time we have it: enough, just enough is heavenly. One takes only what can remain fresh in the meal or occasion immediately following. Excess is spoilage, wastage—and criminal. Honor the abundance by taking just enough.”

Besides the community pantries now multiplying in number, it is not uncommon for us to experience this abundance when we visit rural communities, tribal communities, and even slum communities. When we visit these places, there is always something to share; that extra produce from the harvest, a bottle of soda from the sari-sari store, or even pasalubong to take home to family.

This is the same framework the Bible presents to us. In the book of Genesis, we are presented with the creation that is commanded to be fruitful, to multiply, and is repeatedly called good. With all that fruitfulness, creation is enough to provide whare humanity can take and eat from any tree, and is able to stip for a rest during sabbath without worry of scarcity.

Later however, humanity also brought in to the myth of scarcity. In one popular story, when God saved Israel form Ebypt in the Exodus, they began to hoard Manna nin the desert. As explained by Walter Brueggemann:

“Three things happened to this bread in Exodus 16. First, everybody had enough. But because Israel had learned to believe in scarcity in Egypt, people started to hoard bread. When they tried to bank it, to invest it, it turned sour and rotted, because you cannot store up God’s generosity. Finally, Moses said, “You know what we ought to do?” We ought to do what God did in Genesis I. We ought to have a Sabbath.” Sabbath means that there is enough bread, that we don’t have to hustle every day of our lives.”

When we are liberated from the myth of scarcity, when we realize the abundance of God’s creation, we are able to give, to share, to restrain ourselves from taking more than we need.

This is the same mindset of Jesus in the New Testament. He performed signs and wonders, turned water into wine, fed thousands of people with baskets of leftovers, and even rested in the midst of the storm.

The community pantry, from a small spark of hope in Maginhawa, is showing us a glimpse of how God designed us. It is a picture of what it looks like to be in community.

To love God and neighbor. It has broken the myth of scarcity that encourages greed and hoarding, and points us to the way of Christ that says there is enough for all.

Just as Jesus said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

[3] Edilberto N. Alegre, Kinilaw, 1991
[4] Walter Bruggemann, The Myth of Scarcity, 1999
[5] Matthew 6:26 NIV

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *