When I took on the adventure of following a similar challenge of Jen Hatmaker’s book 7 and drag along several of my friends with me…I was changed in how I viewed the world, our resources, and all things related. But being here–I realize that Africa has some lessons to teach us on minimalistic living!!
People here live with very little. And for the most part they seem pretty content. I saw a woman today with her bra straps tied because unlike myself and all of my friends–when hers wore thin, broke, or she received this hand me down from another–she figured out a way to make it work! Many Americans like being savvy, frugal, recycling, reusing, even thrifting and being thrifty. But it is something that is more of an option not a necessity. Clothes here are worn until they are down to threads. I saw a man with shoes that only held the sole the rest of the shoe would flop on and off (strings, and the top part) with every step. (It is doubtful that 7 items of clothing could be plucked from most closets.) Homes are simple–people live with far less space and far more people. They have small kitchens and turn off ALL their lights at night…if they have electricity. Food is simple. We have lived as a family off the same (or similar) meal for the past month. Rice, beans, potatoes, and some sort of fruit or vegetable. The beans are always in a delicious sauce–one that tastes unique or different with different spices–and the vegetables rotate with what comes up from the garden that day…but VERY similar food. My children do not complain–and it makes me want to rethink the huge rotation I have at home. Our guest house is powered by electricity and solar power–and sunshine is a resource they have plenty of–and so they use the sunshine and often switch over to solar when we lose power…and this happens quite often. Speaking of using natural resources–the guest house also collects rain water from the roof and that is the water that is used for our showers each day. Almost nothing is wasted…they re-use everything. In our home they have avocados falling from the trees like rain drops. The owners use those for meals–some are “borrowed” by the neighbors, but also the trees produce so many that they then sell the rest to a company in Kampala that uses it for cosmetics.
The things you read or see and hear about in Africa are real. The physical need here really is great. (Not for huge houses, electric stoves, or even cars.) But for clean water and better medical clinics and stimulus of the economy. With this lack comes an observable pain and brokenness. (It is not that people are discontent–because amazingly many many are quite content and full of joy. Their happiness is not based on material items.) But there is suffering due to illnesses and lack of resources to care for those who are sick or dying. There is lack that leads to little or no education, and this perpetuates a cycle of poverty and for some that means no food on the table. The landscape of our pain in the US looks so very different but our threads weave similar stories. We are broken in America too, our need is great. There is still illness, broken relationships, and heartache. There is a significant spiritual depravity in our country. But those needs are often masked by prosperity and temporary comfort, by college football games and trips to the movies. By haircuts, pedicures, new outfits, vacations, or fill in the blank for your own personal “treat” that helps to take the sting of pain away. In Africa things are far more raw and real and pain is more on the surface. Needs are more obvious. There is a helplessness that I feel concerning the physical needs–but in the end, there are real world problems all over the world that money alone cannot fix.
Granted if Africans had the chance to a drive a pimped out SUV they very well might–but in the meantime they are bicycling and boda-ing–everywhere they go!
I cannot yet put words to all that my eyes take in and my heart and head try to process. There is much to be learned from the people here as well as across the pond. Our needs and pain are very real here and abroad. Incredibly I think the US and Africa are far more similar than different…as is our pain…as is our need…as is our humanity. One of the strangest questions I have come across while living here: do we in the west know we live in need? May You Be a Blessing and May You Be Blessed… Jenni