So, Brooke and I went to the grocery store yesterday. We usually shop together, you know, to make sure we get what we want. By now we have a bit of a system: we always start with produce and end with bread, I’m usually the one to get the meat and coffee, she picks out the vegetables. It’s a nice system, and we could crank it out really quickly, but we go together to actually be together, so it takes us a little longer.

Yesterday we had an unscheduled stop: laundry detergent.

Obviously laundry detergent is important, because we want to wear clean, fresh-smelling clothes, not dingy, stinky clothes. So we walk down the laundry detergent aisle, which has roughly 900 laundry detergents to choose from. Liquid. Powder. Bleach alternative. Color guard. Tide. Dreft. Gain. The aisle smells chemical-fresh, and it’s bright and inviting, each bottle saying, “Buy me, Buy me!” Brooke likes to buy environmentally-friendly products, so we looked for the plain white bottle of “Planet” detergent. After walking back and forth a couple of times we found it: one bottle of environmental detergent in the middle of 900 other options.

Price? Ten dollars.

I’ve been thinking lately about consumerism: how I am a consumer, whether I like it or not. And how, as a consumer, my decisions don’t really matter that much. You see, advertisements and commercials scream to me that I should have a television that shows every blade of grass on a field, or every facial hair on a detective (and though I don’t have an HDTV, the ones I’ve seen are super cool). Or I should have a faster car with a smoother transmission. Or a hundred other things. But really, thinking about a nicer TV or faster car…isn’t it kind of a waste of time? What if I took that time and thought about AIDS in Africa or poverty downtown, just minutes away from my house?

And that led me to think about how I can affect change. Today. In America. But, there’s all these causes out there and I don’t have time to get involved in 20 different causes. I just don’t. I’m busy already, even when I don’t think about HDTV’s.

Standing there with Brooke in the aisle of the grocery I realized this: my decisions do matter. My consumer decisions of whether to buy an HDTV matter, my decision of whether to buy environmentally friendly laundry detergent or not matters. On one hand, my dollars are my voice, in corporate America today, if I buy something I lend my support to that cause. And I want to support the environment. I’m just not as passionate as supporting great-quality television picture. It’s cool, but it really doesn’t stir my heart.

Standing in the aisle, I swallowed hard, and grabbed the $10 detergent. Sure, I could’ve bought the $3 bottle and it wouldn’t be that bad — I could’ve even sent the remaining $7 to Africa, or a homeless guy downtown (though, most likely, the extra money would’ve gone to Starbucks or a DVD rental). But for a moment, I was acting out what I believed, bringing my body in line with my soul. I was, though it was subtle, taking another step on my journey to becoming a whole, complete person, who acts and speaks from his heart.

It was worth the $10. My clothes smell great.