If you took a random person off the streets of America and asked them if they thought they were rich, the majority would say no. Being rich in America means being Bill Gates or Warren Buffet. But in Africa, if you are white, you are considered rich.
I found this to be an interesting concept. Before I got married, I spent nearly a year jumping from house to house struggling to get by. I had gone through several cars. One was a lemon, two were borrowed, and one I was in a car accident in. It was totaled. Trying to keep food around was difficult. Keeping a roof over my head was even harder. I had jobs but was constantly jumping from one to the next. I had just graduated college and was going through one of the greatest self seeking journeys of my life.
The cause of my vagabond year was caused by one of two things. First, I was too stubborn to conform to the mundane American life of work, sleep, and repeat. Also, I was struggling with complex PTSD which is no fun. But the number one reason was because I saw something greater. I saw a life where people were invested in each other. Where it mattered if your neighbor was doing ok. Where everyday was an adventure, not just passing minutes until shifts were over.
My point in all of this is that I'm not rich. I've fined dined in China but I've also gone to bed hungry. Today, Sebastian and I do well with our tiny studio apartment. Our cupboards are always full of food and our cars are always running. We're not rich, but we definitely have enough.
When we were in Africa, the point was quickly made that muzungos meant money. Often we were asked to help pay for school fees. Sometimes we were asked to send back gifts, like phones. It wasn't too excessive but it got me thinking. Africa wants to be more like America with their big fancy phones. They assume we all have more money than we need. Americas, on the other hand, want to be more like Bill Gates or Warren Buffet with their luxurious cars and big houses.
Every situation is different, but I think it is possible that we have become so consumed by materialism that we've lost sight of what is important. Don't get me wrong, the starving child on the street needs food. Period. But where's the line? When do we know we don't need anything more?
Being a missionary to a number of countries, I've fallen into a pattern of how I minister to people. Some missionaries bring healing and prophecies. Others build houses and churches. I bring myself and all the love I have inside of me. The best thing Seb and I did while in Uganda was that we lived with people. We slept when they slept, we ate when they ate, and we lived like how they lived. The ability to love is a gift each person is given at birth. How we use it is up to each of us individually. We can let our desire to buy things drown out our a capability to love or we can love to the point where we forget that we even have needs and wants.
When it comes down to it, even the staving child doesn't really need money for food. They need a parent. I write this blog as a challenge to Africans, Americans, and everyone really. Keep what you need to get by and let go of everything else. To the Americans, a new phone only gives you access to login into facebook where self esteem drops. But time off your phone to spend with those you love brings so much more joy. And to the Africans, muzungos bringing money won't fix a thing. Our live isn't as glamorous at it seems. Spending time with those you love is priceless no matter where you live. If you already have that, don't get a phone to take away from it. Work hard enough to eat everyday, then spend the night laughing with your family. It's much more fulfilling, I promise. And for those with the excess money, use to give to those who need a hand to get back on their feet. But be sure to teach them how to get back on their feet first!