One of the things that I feel constantly while packing up for furlough is the fact that I’m living in a place where many of my neighbors are subsistence farmers, or work for a small hourly wage. Their monthly earnings are a small fraction of what I spend on groceries each week.
We’ve lived in one place for four years (well, with trips to the village in between) and it has been such a good thing for our family!! But it means that we’ve collected unneeded items: jars for making jam, empty soda bottles for making guava and passion fruit juice, and other things that we are happy to give away. It is just awkward when I am walking down my hill with a box of empty bottles and people are standing there waiting to take them away, with a hungry expression. I try to smile graciously but end up walking away feeling sad, because of what those empty jars represent. I have money to buy things. I sometimes use it frivolously, like last week when I bought a couple of [expensive] chocolate bars, thinking they would help me get through the transition! On the other hand, I do a lot of meals that don’t require cheese or meat so that I can fill us up with less expensive (and fresh from the market) veggies…but I still have money to buy rice to eat with the veg! And I always have coffee to drink every morning.
It is sobering to put things in the trash, knowing that in a few minutes, it will be someone else’s treasure. I don’t think there’s a cure for this feeling. There will always be a disparity between my wealth and the people I live amongst. I try to be generous and kind…but I have to be very careful to do it in a culturally appropriate way. It can be very complicated–just ask the new people who come, because we say, “Yes, you can do that…but it might be better to do…only, if you do that, this might happen….”
Anyway, this is one of the many stresses of living overseas, but in this particular week, it’s something that is on my mind constantly because we’re trying to go from being people of plenty to more minimalistic living. It means we have to look at each item and decide if we need it, and if not how will we dispose of it? If we’re keeping it, how will we store it? (Having the twins potty trained, out of cribs and done with sippy cups, booster seats and toddler toys is already a huge help.) There are multiple layers to the decision-making! I know that in two weeks, I will be gone from here and I won’t face these things as often but it will still be on my mind, when we get emails from national co-workers dealing with illness or a family death (which is a huge financial output for the grieving family). So my prayer today is, “Lord, give me wisdom because You promised you would give it whenever I ask!” And help me embrace the hard bits because I know it will be worth it to get to the more simple life I’ve been longing for.