The other day I sat at my parents house as dad proudly set a huge bag of coffee beans on the coffee table.
"I think it's two pounds," he says as it slowly rolls to a horizontal position- revealing the weight printed near the bottom crimp of the bag, "no, three pounds, and great flavor."
The yellow bag boasts the origin as Rwanda- a country whose troubles were seared into my mind years ago by a movie. There is an artistic rendering of a faceless woman draped in bright cloth balancing a basket on her head.
"Eleven dollars at Costco. What a deal, huh?" Dad is always proud of a bargain. It is the American way. Work really hard for too many hours to get precious money and spend as little as possible on every basic little thing. Little victories add up in the battle of a budget.
"So..." I considered not mentioning it and ruining this victory, but I couldn't keep it in. "Eleven dollars for three pounds of coffee beans. How much do you think that woman on the bag earned for picking that basket full of beans on her head? And how much do you thing she needs to rebuild her looted home and raise her kids in the absence of a husband killed in the civil war?"
Dad sighed, and looked like I placed a fifty pound bag of coffee beans over his shoulders.
"Probably not much," he said with genuine bewildered sadness.
Then he changed the subject to the school he's helping build in Cambodia. He just got back a couple of days ago from a punishing seven day trip half way around the world. The school is for little girls trying to get an education so they're not forced into the sex trade for money.
"We brought them little uniforms for school because all they really have is rags. They were so happy to have something new." He beamed, happy to make a difference.
"It's really good what you're doing over there, dad."
I guess it just feels better to save money at home, then hand someone something you've saved up to buy for them. And then it feels self-indulgent to return home and pay a higher
(fair) price for something as inconsequential as coffee. Thrifty.