I live in a very different world than many of my friends, so I sometimes wonder what is worth sharing. Some information would be considered humorous, some horrifying, and some mundane. Truth be told, though, I can’t always distinguish between the differences. I have come to regard as ‘normal’ what many of you would regard as abnormal. I was taken aback recently when someone thought it unusual that for much of the year here I only have water out of the tap for a few hours in the morning and the evening. Why wouldn’t I spend $300 for a water tank and then more for water delivery so I could have water 24 hours a day? Well, a constant water supply would be nice, but I don’t consider it my ‘right’ here, and with our limited resources, our funds have invested elsewhere. Thus, I learn to live with a bathroom full of water bottles along the wall so we can ‘flush’ regardless of whether there is water in the pipes. And though I don’t consider this convenient, I don’t consider it abnormal. Do you?
And do you think it shocking that an innocent 26-year-old young man was shot dead by a drunk policeman near us the other day? I cringed and cried, but I wasn’t shocked. Is that because my own encounters with drunk policemen here have tainted my perspective?
The longer I live my life in developing world countries, the more engrained I become in them, and there is both good and bad in this. This is one reason I like to listen to the impressions of new missionaries or short-term visitors. Sometimes their viewpoints are very “off” as they have little cultural understanding or limited perspective. In those case, I might say nothing, smile knowingly and privately reflect that given time, God will give them a wider lens and a softer heart. Other times though, I am the one in need of a more pliable heart as my environment can ’toughen me up’ and skew my vision. This is one reason, for decades, many of you have heard me confess that my daily prayer is, “Lord, let not my heart grow numb.”
Let me give you a few examples of where there is this “tug-o-war perspective” battle raging in my mind. I’ll start with one in today’s blog post, and follow up with another one later this week.
I live in a nation where the average citizen makes less than $500 a year. But this month, I’ve spent that much on food and school supplies for just one of our aged-out orphans we are journeying alongside. Should this young adult consider himself ‘blessed’? Should he fall asleep each night with gratitude in his heart for this ‘favor’? Oh, perhaps I should mention that he falls asleep each night on a mattress on the floor of a one room dirt-floored room with no sink or toilet. That is his home.
But does it matter that mattress is more than most have and prior to that he slept on the hard ground. In fact, prior to us helping him rent that one room dirt-floored room, he was sleeping in parks and vans as he had nowhere else to go. Do you see how quickly I could get a skewed perspective here? I feel bad that we don’t have enough money to buy him a bed frame to get him off the floor where bugs and rats are known to roam, but I feel thankful that at least he has a mattress! I don’t feel gratitude is owed to us, but I do hope and pray gratitude for any gift is given to God.