The Post-Pandemic Pantry

(Q) When the recent pandemic began to unfold into a real threat, I took precautions – I shopped for all the things we are told to have on hand in case of an emergency. I have been through tough situations before and know firsthand what is at stake. A few neighbors, friends, and family members thought I overreacted and said so. I didn’t think so at the time but now I am second-guessing myself. What is the difference between panic-buying and being prepared? What is the difference between having some extra supplies on hand versus hoarding them?

(A) Your question says so much about these strange and interesting times. The thing about emergencies is that they are unpredictable. We don’t know how long they will last or how we may be called on to respond, so we tend to fall back on what we have learned from past experience, or what we have come to believe. We gather information, churn that through our internal database, and get to work. Like bees, we are wired to protect the hive – but eons of evolution have rewired us think we belong to different hives now – so our methods are different than they were long ago.

We should also consider that the western idea of barely enough could easily be understood as wealth beyond measure in a developing country. Everything is relative. Generally speaking, having enough, means that our needs are covered; at least in the short run we’ll be fine. Plenty is more than enough; it’s likely that we can share some of our stash if we choose to. An ample or abundant supply suggests that we can be counted on to assist others. As an experiment, follow this link to a food supply calculator to find out how much you really need:

The best answer to your question rests with your intention – what is the plan for the extra supplies? Who are they meant for? Is their location knowable or a closely guarded secret? Can they be shared or given away or will they be sold at a profit? Can you use them in a reasonable amount of time or does the quantity go way beyond an ordinary cycle of use? If you came across a person in greater need than you, would you share? How much “extra” would you need to have on hand before you felt comfortable sharing? When you next encounter your unprepared and critical neighbor or family member, will you share your extra supplies with them compassionately or make them eat their words first?

You have the answers to these questions within you. To get to them, we have to ask the hard questions. We may not like what we find, but that’s the place to begin. Over time, I have learned that our background, upbringing, financial situation, and exposure to previous adversity has less of an effect on our decisions than we might imagine. Our first instinct is to protect the hive. Our second instinct is to protect the community. We often find a way to do both.

What about all the greed? Yes, there is that to consider. Examples are everywhere. But that’s not us. If the game is comparison, let’s compare ourselves to the best examples we can find, not the worst. If you follow a path that includes (spiritual) initiations, you will soon discover that the easiest tests to pass are those of generosity versus greed. Comparing ourselves to the greediest among us only obscures our vision and slows us down. The hardest tests to pass are those that require the non-use (restraint) of power.

Lastly, second-guessing yourself is a no-win, especially as the result of something someone else said. Reviewing a decision is not the same as second-guessing, which undermines your cognitive and intuitive abilities. I know this fault intimately and work with it too. Stick with it.

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