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Old Money Bag—A Voice of Simplicity from the FMS Casa Community


Editor’s note: New missioner Tim Shelgren writes a post about practicing simple living with the other members of the intentional community at FMS’ Casa San Salvador.

My job is to hold currency. I have been at my job for quite some time. My once vibrant purple and yellow stripes are fading, my plastic is getting stretched, and my zipper is getting stiff. My name is Old Money Bag. Currently on a trial basis, I am the container where the residents of Casa San Salvador keep their grocery money.

Typically, I don’t say much, I’m too busy trying to keep my shape. I live in a world where money is abundant; I am often stuffed to my seams. Last weekend, though, I experienced a less strenuous day that is worthy of mention. I must speak.

On Saturday I spent my day with a group of missioners and DC Service Corp Members at the Casa. Those people are different. Money is not abundant, and the spenders are far gentler with me and careful with spending. Eight of them altogether, they each pitched in the best they could, and they noted that their grocery budget is limited to 160 dollars for the week.

My load was light. I had a great time watching the Casa community put together an extremely organized menu for the week and a grocery list. One determined lady took a leadership role in the planning, and another focused lady categorized and listed items perfectly on a piece of paper. They laughed and played while they worked. I loved hearing that!

Then, we went to a secret store I call Cheap Groceries. That part was fun too. Clearly, many others have discovered this secret store. The place was packed. Though very crowded, everyone there was polite as they literally squeezed their carts by ours. Many people actually spoke to us.

At the checkout line our cart was heaping with groceries. Would the mere 160 dollars I was holding pay for all that food? “No problem,” said the lady in charge of me, “We have 27 dollars left over.” Everyone cheered!

What a nice day. My prayer now is that my travels are over. I want to serve out the rest of my days at FMS. My plastic material expands only as far as the pared-down food budget I hold. And my zipper is getting a rest. For an empty Old Money Bag, I feel like a million dollars!

Reflection question: If your food budget could talk, would it have advice for you to live more simply?

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Tim Shelgren has led many youth mission trips as a committed Christian. He has worked as a hair stylist, massage therapist, and yoga teacher, and most recently as a counselor at a residential home for teenage boys. A father of three and grandfather of five, Tim is passionate about working for equality for all people and has a special interest in working with children and youth without families. After living recently in Arizona and Pennsylvania, Tim is looking forward learning and growing spiritually by serving in another culture. He likes rock and tree climbing, riding bikes with friends, and playing piano, just like he did when he was a kid.