High cholesterol and smoking have been replaced as the number one cause of heart attacks. It’s now the shock of looking at the pump and seeing what it costs to fill up the car with gas.

Last week it cost me $25 to fill up my little four cylinder Mazda. One guy, who drives an SUV, told me that he paid over $50. And commentators on the radio claim that crude oil could rise in price from $55/barrel to $100.

Why? Because demand around the world is increasing and the supply is decreasing (Economics 101).

Now, some people are saying that if the price of gas at the pump goes up to $3/gallon, people will start trading in their Ford Explorers for hybrids like the Toyota Prius.

Maybe they will, but I kind of doubt it. I doubt it, because that’s what they predicted when a gallon of gas topped a dollar. Do you remember what happened? We got all shook up at first, adjusted and soon started buying SUVs with big engines which require $55 worth of gas to get you from here to Green Bay and back.

And I doubt it for another reason. We are a people who are hooked”dare I say addicted”to consuming. Look at the signs of addiction:

1. Can you live without alcohol and still get through the day? An alcoholic can’t. Can you be happy while the income that funds your lifestyle is decreasing? We say to our children, “the best things in life are free.” The way we consume would indicate that we don’t like the best things in life.

2. Can you quit any time? Well, can you? How many times have you put your mental foot down saying you’re going to teach your children to have financial discipline? And then the first time they whine or protest you give in and buy them those $120 sneakers? Or when you get stressed or depressed what do you turn to in order to find comfort?

During the CROP Hunger Walk, coming up on May 1, participants will hike a total of ten kilometers or six miles. When I ask people to walk for hunger, many of them groan and protest that six miles is too far. Now, these are the same people who pay thousands of dollars a year for the ability to drive their car four blocks to Madison Street and they give a neighborhood kid $20 to shovel their snow and mow their lawn. And then they pay $50/month to go to a health club, because they are out of shape.  

They would much rather write out a check for $10 and give it to CROP than to actually get out there on a Sunday afternoon and put one foot in front of the other for two hours or so.

Don’t get me wrong. Writing out a ten dollar check does make a difference. But part of the reason that the CROP Hunger Walk is a walk instead of a fundraiser like what the United Way does, is that CROP wants us to feel what is like to walk what many third world people”usually women”trudge every day to get fire wood and water.

The purpose of walking is partly to help us identify with people who can’t afford to fill up a gas tank let alone buy a car. But it’s also partly an invitation to consider modifying our lifestyles.

What a concept! That I can have a better time getting sore muscles and giving money away than by spending money on myself consuming. A paraphrase of a MasterCard commercial might go like this: tickets for a family of four to watch the Cubs”$90; beer, soda, nachos and peanuts at Wrigley Field”$60; souvenirs for the kids”$25; the experience of walking for hungry people”priceless.