We arrived last week with 16 suitcases of stuff to begin the next chapter of our lives in Burundi. That’s not too bad compared to the new US family up the road who have brought 24 suitcases (but they’re starting from scratch), or some others who ship stuff in crates or eve whole containers – but can you see that I’m trying to justify myself?!
So as we slowly unpacked and took several days to get things in order – Lizzie being the ‘we’ mainly, doing a superb job, whilst I took care of the kids – I actually felt sick with all the stuff we have.
It’s all about context. We brought out loads of toys for the kids, to a country where most kids don’t have any toys, except what they’ve made out of sticks or discarded refuse. We brought out fifteen pair of shoes (one already stolen at the beach yesterday!), to a country where most people don’t own a single pair. We brought gadgets that require electricity in a land where 90% live without a power source. We brought out piles of clothes, to a country where most people have at best one change of outfits. I could go on, but notice this conversation with Zac (6):
Zac: “Daddy, why is that man wearing a torn dirty shirt?”
Me: “Because that’s probably the only piece of clothing he has.”
Pause… as Zac processes the information…
Zac: “So when he goes to bed, doesn’t he wear pyjamas?”
Me: “No, darling, he doesn’t have any pyjamas, and he doesn’t have a bed.”
I don’t aspire to the poverty of that man, but I have felt chastened this week by how much stuff I have, that are not ‘needs’ but rather verge on ‘greeds’. And I have always prided myself on being a minimalist, o the irony! Ghandi’s line rings in my ears: “The world has enough for every man’s needs but not every man’s greeds.” And I also think of one of Christian Aid’s slogan: “Live more simply, that others may simply live.” Simple as that!
It’s all part of culture shock. A senior pastor died last week in a motorcycle accident. He probably would have survived if it was in the West but the hospital care offered wasn’t up to much. He leaves behind a wife and three children. Life seems so cheap out here. Aargh! I hate that. We tell the kids not to use the word ‘hate’, but yes, I hate the poverty and injustice that smacks me in the face all the time in this precious land.
OK, enough musing, but it’s worth pondering your end too. Got too much stuff? C.S.Lewis said: “God gives where He finds empty hands.” How stuffed are yours?