Living Below the Line

The Challenge is Simple. Spend no more than $1.75 per day for your food and drink for 5 days, and use your experience to change perspectives and behaviours, and to raise money for a cause you believe in.

Live Below the Line is one of those things that sounds crazy. Live for 5 days on a food budget of $1.75/day. My Starbucks coffee costs more than that! But after 3 years of living below the line (that’s 5 days each year, not every day for 3 years!), my experience has taught me few things.

Live BelowThis challenge isn’t exactly crazy. It is only because of my limited perspective that it seems that way. When I realize that 1.2 billion people live on this amount for not just food but everything, I realize not only how blessed I am but how little I should complain. It is a privilege to self identify with the poor, a privilege that reminds me that I already have more than I deserve, and it challenges me to be generous.

I used to dread this week because it was so hard. But this year it has become less of a privilege and more of a discipline. I set time aside to cook and prep from scratch. I was reminded that food actually grows somewhere and that we have commoditized it to be fast and easy but it was not always this way. Bread takes 18 hours to rise. Stock needs time to boil for hours. Both of these items could be bought off the shelf, but there was a time when it took effort and intention to produce them for yourself. This year, my challenge was to take the things God has given us and respect them in a new way, maybe an ancient way, and grow.

Living below the line not only allows a time for self-reflection. It forces me to talk about significant things with my neighbours. Whether they are new friends in this community or actual neighbors, talking through my experiences and sharing the fun moments is a blessing. I share my Living Below the Line mishaps like the time I had two days of awful pancakes because I was short ingredients. I share my successes like the time I transformed those same ingredients to make fantastic savory Asian pancakes. These conversations usually lead to questions about what I am doing and why. They lead me to talk about the significant work my charity, Raising the Village, is involved with instead of the regular stuff. And you know what, it’s fantastic talk. People want to know and I want to tell them.

Challenging ourselves to Live Below the Line is one of the ways in which we can lead questionable lives. After three years, it’s become a familiar truth, the kind that guides and protects me, and points me back to Jesus. May I point others to him, too.



Alan Liu is a husband, father, and the Canadian Operations Director of Raising the Village. Alan joined FreeChurch in 2015.