That was about them. This is about me.
My wife and I are expecting a baby daughter in a few months. Kim is already playing a healthy combination of Mozart and Stevie Wonder for the invisibly growing being inside her. Mozart, we hear, is for the brain. Stevie Wonder is to ensure good musical taste. Kim insists our little baby is happiest listening to "Sir Duke." I think it is "Superstition."
We are good modern parents who want the best for our little girl. That has naturally led me to begin researching strollers. My quest began and ended when I came across Bugaboo Design & Sales BV, a Dutch company that makes something called the Bugaboo Frog. This is a Grace-Kelly-meets-Arnold-Schwarzenegger stroller. It is elegant and graceful. The lines are perfect. It is also said to be virtually indestructible. It can go off-road, on the beach, down a city sidewalk, and up a driveway. It has been medically designed so the baby experiences no pressure points. It also sells for nearly $800.
My wife and I could conceivably afford an $800 stroller, especially when we compare it to how much college will one day cost. And I've actually done a fairly good job convincing her that it might be a necessity. I'm really tall, and the Bugaboo's push-handle design is comfortable for tall people. The stroller converts into many different configurations, which I take to mean we wouldn't have to spend money on a lot of other equipment. It is likely to last for a long time and maybe even be around for another baby, should one come our way. VH1 featured it as the hot item for celebrity moms and dads. How could I deprive my child of this stroller?
But then I read Ron Sider's statistics about poverty. Nearly three billion people try to survive on less than $2 a day. A million people a year have been added to the ranks of the American poor since 2000. Then I hear that the Unique Learning Center here in Washington, D.C.-the charity the President recently lauded in a faith-based speech-that gets kids off the streets, into a safe place, giving them dreams for an educational future is in danger of closing down because funds have dried up. In the face of all the needs, can I allow myself to spring for this Bugaboo stroller?
Washington policy debates are invariably abstract. Sometimes during a State of the Union address, a president will include a few human-interest stories to flesh out the abstractions, and they may even be punctuated by homage to the hero or heroine sitting next to the First Lady. Advocacy groups illustrate their agendas with heart-rending stories about ordinary people affected by misguided policies a family that lost a child because of corporate malfeasance, workers losing their health-care coverage. But all of these are so easily dismissed as political tools to further a particular political or policy agenda. Maybe it is better that way.
After all, mushy sentimentality helps no one. Right? Yes, the world is unfair and full of suffering. No one person can save it, and no one person should take the weight of it upon her shoulders. No less an authority than Mother Teresa said she well knew she couldn't save every life, just one at a time. She movingly said when asked if helping just one life at a time made her a failure amidst the sea of human suffering, "No." Jesus, she explained, didn't call her to be "successful," just faithful to serving him in the "distress and disguise of the poor."
Against that standard why should I have to worry about an expensive little stroller? My wife and I give money and time away to helping others. We love God. We even give money to homeless people sometimes.
Unfortunately though, I've asked myself an uncomfortable question that's spawned other conundrums. Can I spend this kind of money? Is it justified? If I forgo the gratification that an $800 baby carriage can deliver, do I buy a cheaper stroller and give the balance to the poor? How much is too much? If $800 is extravagant, how about $250? If not $250 than how much is OK? Do I need to sell everything, even this computer, give it all to the poor and live in a shack? I can still spend $100 to groom my beloved Newfoundland puppy, right?
The White House promised billions of new anti-poverty dollars but chose not to deliver because of its choices. I think they chose poorly. But their choice in billions is now my choice in hundreds. These choices are hard ones. The questions themselves are really freaking annoying.
All I want is a damn stroller. But knowing all that I know, do I get it? That is my bugaboo.