We recycle and reuse items whenever possible, and it’s considered the socially and environmentally-conscious thing to do. Well, here’s the ultimate in re-using: apparently, in the 1960’s, people would send used tea bags to missionaries in Africa! Doesn’t this sound crazy?!? It says a lot about how people thought back then.
There isn’t much value in a used tea bag, beyond adding it to a compost pile. But perhaps to the people collecting them, saving tea bags and donating them was worthwhile. Perhaps giving a tea bag to someone else when you would have used it one or two more times was even a hardship. Certainly going to Africa to be a missionary was a hardship — perhaps tea bag donations were meant to ease the pain, to provide something from home that one couldn’t get in Africa. But were the missionaries actually happy to receive their shipment of used tea bags? It’s hard to imagine! I think I would be borderline offended! I mean, all the caffeine from the tea has been washed out, and there wouldn’t be much flavour left either… but maybe if you combine several bags together, you can enjoy a decent cup of tea. Not by our standards, but in Africa in the 60’s or 70’s…? But why not just send NEW tea bags?
I wonder if the people saving their bags felt they were doing something good, something helpful. If so, maybe the missionaries appreciated the gesture, if not the flavour. I suppose the tea-drinkers thought themselves to be helping the cause, to be contributing to “the Lord’s work,” somehow. It seems quite ridiculous to us, though, doesn’t it?
I wonder if 30 or 40 years from now, we will look back at our society and giggle or cringe at things we do now, feeling like we’re helping the cause or doing what’s socially or environmentally conscious. I suspect we might cringe over burning fossil fuels, when there is so much clean, free energy in the sun, wind, and waves. All coastal cities will have low-profile wave-generators for their electricity. Maybe we’ll even be using DC voltage exclusively, and have mini-power stations for individual houses or neighbourhoods everywhere.
I wonder if we’ll twitch over time spent on Facebook or playing games. Will we pine over the lost time, when we were able-bodied, that we spent sitting still? Will we think that cheering for sport teams is silly, and rioting, ridiculous? I cringe when I see people burning wood piles (waste wood). Why not chip it and spread it? Compost it? I recently learned of hugelkultur — gardening on top of a pile of wood! How cool is that?
Anyways, if you are hardcore into environmental causes, I encourage you to save your tea bags and, uh, well, don’t send them to anyone! Sheesh. Compost ’em, and if you want to help a missionary in Africa, send money!
(Actually, my mom is part of a group that sews simple sun-dresses for girls in hot, poor countries, so they can have something nice and airy to wear. I like that!)