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Is comparison a good thing?

“Now open until 11pm!” read the sign on the window. 

I brushed past it and slid my way through the line, brushing my fingertips on the grooves in the corrugated metal wall. 

The smell of adobo and cilantro wafted toward me. 

I love chipotle. Who doesn’t?

Healthy-ish, tasty, and one of the best bang-for-your-buck fast food options left. 

The line moves swiftly. The employee touches the back of her hand to her forehead. I step up and make eye contact just above the glass separating food from street people. Her eyes are tired, but cheerful. 

“What can I get for you today?” She immediately asks . 

“How are you?” I ask back. She grins, “Good thanks” and picks up my bowl. 

After filling the cardboard oval with a mixture of rice, beans, chicken, and an assortment of veggies, a second employee grabs my dinner, stuffs it in a bag and presents my total bill. I smile and thank him, complimenting how efficient the staff was. He avoids eye contact and says through a sad voice “I’m just trying to go home.” 

Like any well-meaning adult with a social media account, I must confess that I too occasionally compare my life to others. 

It’s the easiest thing to do in 2024. 

This girl’s abs, that girl’s style, this guy’s house, that family’s vacation itinerary…

girl looking at her phone

And before the well-meaning boomer comments come to congratulate my awareness of a flaw in my generation, comparison has always existed. Before screens it was keeping up with the Joneses, and back in Biblical times, it was adhering fur to your arm to get an extra dose of blessing (it’s a weird story about Jacob and Esau in Genesis 27, look it up).

In most cases I would argue that comparison is bad. But are there lessons in comparison that can be a good thing?

Americans are choosing to get married later, have kids later, and focus more on their careers. The reasoning may vary depending on who you ask, but most would probably say it’s because kids take up a lot of time, money and energy. Our hustle culture and capitalistic system of a 5 days, 40hrs a week of working barely provides the money to live in this inflated economy. And forget rest, once your work and commuting hours are done, you’re lucky if you get a chance to cook and clean up and have a little time to watch an episode of TV before going to bed and doing it all again the next day. 

So adding in children simply doesn’t seem to be a viable option without expendable resources—at least, for most of my peers. Meanwhile, in countries like Spain and Portugal, children are a welcomed addition to adult activities.

Things like restaurants and public transportation, wine bars and shopping centers not only welcome, but encourage mothers with children present to live and enjoy it.

In many Mediterranean cultures, it’s highly unlikely to find someone slouching over a computer to work a 40hr work week. A common practice is the afternoon siesta—a pause in the day for shops to close and workers to go home, rest, and then re-engage in work later after their bodies have refreshed. 

someone eating pasta

In Italy, the food culture is stuff of legend. Italians don’t have processed ingredients, no mega marts with endless aisles of groceries, and seemingly no rush to meal time. There aren’t to-go cups for coffee because cappuccinos should be sipped slowly and enjoyed. They aren’t importing overloads of lab grown food because the local grocery stop nearby has all the in season local veg, cheese, and meat you need. You work with what’s in front of you, and you savor it for what it is. 

I think comparing our lives in the States to some of these cultural practices is beneficial to breaking the generational chains of “it is what it is.” 

Now I’m not saying we should all pack our bags and stampede to Europe (though I’m tempted every day). But I do think we can learn so much from the influence of how others do things and make change here in our own neighborhoods. 

Do we need 2 day free shipping? Or would the small shop down the street benefit more from our business than Bezos? 

Do we need the newest fast fashion top from target? Or could a thrifted alternative help save a perfectly intact piece from a landfill? 

Do we need chipotle at 11pm? Or can we snack on something at home and let the poor teenage employees go home and sleep. 

As a business owner, I understand the temptation to only ever increase revenue, no matter the cost. 

But as a follower of Jesus, and a concerned millennial, I know the value of our life is not places in such things. It’s not the fun route, the more profitable path, or even close to a popular opinion. But I wonder what contributions to God’s world we could all make if we simply say: how’s my earthly life compared to the vision for Kingdom life?

a girl looking out into the ocean

I grieve the longterm impact our greed has already had on this world. Our overconsumption, constant need for news, our addiction to knowledge, our buy-in to the American lie that “you can have it all” — on these grounds will lay our country’s demise. 

While it’s true that good news doesn’t sell, what if we all stopped reading? 

My hope is that collectively we could move forward changing “the way it is” in small steps: first in our personal lives, then in our communities. 

If not us, who? 

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