Excessive Options and Apathy

Last week I passed a billboard for a convenience store chain. (I wanted a photo of it, but since it was along a highway, and I was driving, I didn’t get one.) The image consisted almost entirely of beverage bottles and read:

“Are 500+ beverage options excessive?”


The implication, of course, is that excess is a good thing, and that this store has whatever you might like to satisfy your thirst. (Except alcohol. This is Pennsylvania, people.)

This isn’t a screed against convenience stores. (The advertiser in this case is Sheetz, which I happen to love.) I like to go into a store and find what I’m looking for. Frankly, it’s sometimes tough to find my favorite. But something about that billboard stopped me in my tracks. (Mentally. I didn’t brake on the highway.)

Why do we need so many options? Excessive options aren’t limited to bottled drinks. It’s canned soup, cereal, disposable razors, yogurt, etc. The number of choices can be paralyzing. For me, the selections either result in my irritation or my apathy.

And here we are with 500 beverages at a corner store while in other parts of the world, clean water is a luxury.

Photo: Pixabay

I don’t have an easy solution. There’s nothing inherently evil about lots of different drinks. And I’ll admit to being ignorant as to why places still do not have easy access to safe drinking water. I’ve heard of initiatives like Water for Lifebut that’s it.

But the billboard did spark an idea. One that will require (a small) sacrifice and and exercise in solidarity. For Lent this year, I’ll be giving up all drinks but water and unsweetened tea. Goodbye for a while juice, milk, and alcohol. I’m still on the fence about whether to give up the unsweetened, flavored seltzer water I enjoy. (The thought of giving it up makes me wince, so I probably should.)

It won’t make the drink choices at the store less overwhelming. It won’t bring clean water to where it’s needed. But it will make me more mindful of our abundance and of those who have so little.


8 thoughts on “Excessive Options and Apathy

  1. Most timely–Lisa Hendey’s post from India this morning (last night? She’s either 10.5 or 16.5 hours ahead of me…I can never manage to figure that out) also discusses people’s ability to get clean water in developing countries.
    Good Lenten practice, I think. I may join you.

  2. Even some in the US lack clean water (Flint, Michigan). I like options too, but we are definitely the land of excess.

  3. A couple years ago, I gave up sugar for Lent. SUGAR. It was the roughest 40 days of my life, I think, which says something about the pervasiveness of sugar in our foods and drinks! (Or my addiction thereto…) I’ve often thought about this – I read the book Kisses from Katie. She was doing mission work in Africa (and adopted 13 children, I believe) and talked about food, and how when she came back to America the grocery store overwhelmed her to tears. It’s a wonderful book. I’m not quite sure what my point was, other than I agree, we have too many options, and sometimes that can be as paralyzing as too few.

    • Sugar would be very tough! I’ll have to work my way up to it! 😉

      And I was overwhelmed at Wegman’s (which I love) last week – just in comparison to Giant/Weis/Karns. It seems every aspect of our lives has multiplied in complexity since I was a kid.

  4. You’re absolutely right about the excess of everything in today’s consumer societies. Those 500+ drink choices make me angry because it’s a lot less environment-friendly to buy chemical-laden soda packaged in plastic bottles (which can be recycled in theory, but often end up in landfills or as litter) than it is to drink plain water.

    Personally, I’ve been drinking mostly unsweetened tea and water (I’d count milk as a food because I always eat it with cereal) for many years since I don’t like juices, soda or coffee, and hardly ever drink alcohol (half a glass of wine maybe twice a year). I’ve never seen it as anti-consumerist, just a personal quirk; it’s interesting to know that someone is set to adopt similar habits as a challenge! It’s quite possible you’ll fall in love with your tea and start brewing it more carefully before Lent is over.

    As for giving up sugar – oh boy, that would be difficult even for me, though I mostly eat my sugar in the form of honey on cereal and the occasional piece of cake! It’s amazing how addictive the taste of sugar is. But after reading the comment of Carrie James, I’m half tempted to try and give up sugar for Lent this year too, just to see if I can manage it.

    • We have good-tasting well water, so I’ve tried to avoid bottled stuff and refrigerate water in durable bottles or a pitcher for our use. I *think* I don’t drink much juice, milk, or alcohol (not enough for giving it up to be a super-hardship), but we’ll see how I feel once I put it into practice.

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