Monday, March 15, 2010

Good Stewards

I was in the doctor’s office the other day waiting for my appointment and picked up a car magazine, Car and Driver, to be specific, to while away the time. I don’t often read car magazines, I haven’t subscribed to any in years, even though I am a bit of a car nut. I grew up in Detroit after all. The first story I spotted was a column by David E. Davis, whom I have always enjoyed reading simply because he is a good writer.
Davis’ column started on cars his family had owned when he, too, was growing up in Michigan, I remember mention of a 1939 DeSoto, which does date Mr. Davis a bit. However, he soon turned to the topic of last year’s “Cash for Clunkers” program. When I realized that, I almost flipped the page; I’m getting more than fed up with political news and stories at the moment. Still, I read on and Davis was making a good point. He pointed out that, while he was growing up, used cars were something of a blessing (he didn’t use the word, but it was implied) for his family. Used cars represented affordable transportation that would not otherwise be available to them. He points out that, for many families around the world, not just in the U.S., used cars represents the same blessing, the opportunity to have enough mobility to travel greater distances to find work, having the freedom to move beyond the limits of a village or small town, or just the expansion of markets beyond those limits. If new or only slightly used cars were all that was available, those benefits would be lost. 

The “Cash for Clunkers” program, by taking thousands upon thousands of perfectly good autos off the road, needlessly denied them to people who could benefit from their use. It was hugely wasteful. Reading this, of course, I thought immediately of St. Benedict. What would he say about that? One way to know is to turn to The Rule. In Chapter 32, he writes:

Chapter 32: On the Tools and Property of the Monastery

For the care of the monastery's property
in tools, clothing and other articles
let the Abbot appoint brothers
on whose manner of life and character he can rely;
and let him, as he shall judge to be expedient,
consign the various articles to them,
to be looked after and to be collected again.
The Abbot shall keep a list of these articles,
so that as the brothers succeed one another in their assignments
he may know what he gives and what he receives back.
If anyone treats the monastery's property
in a slovenly or careless way,
let him be corrected.
If he fails to amend,
let him undergo the discipline of the Rule.
Benedict is pretty clear on how monastery property is to be treated, they should be “looked after . . . to be collected again.” He also says, “if anyone treats the monastery’s property in a slovenly or careless way, let him be corrected, if he fails to amend, let him undergo the discipline of the Rule.”

Destroying useful tools, and as much as I hate to say it, an automobile is a tool, deserves correction, even punishment. What does it say about us, as a society, that we condone such wanton waste?

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