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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

It’s Not What We Have

By Chuck Keller 

Chuck Keller. FTM file. 

The other day a friend complained about how hectic her schedule was with work, taking kids to sports and music, the dog to the vet, shoveling snow, and so on. She was exhausted. She took a drink of the wine that I had offered and then she said, “But that is a first world problem.” She laughed. She had put her concerns into perspective. She was not the center of the universe and she acknowledged that her “problems” are the result of being so lucky in life.

How many time do we hear other or even ourselves complain? How often do we stop to declare how fortunate we are? I generally blow off these Facebook posts but someone posted a placard that read, “Someone is praying for the things that you take for granted” and that got me to thinking about how we petition for a particular case, need, or desire.

I have been following the adventures of Highlands’ art teacher, Andy Eckerle, in Malawi, Africa.  He teaches school while his wife doctors at the hospital. It’s a one year commitment but one of amazing growth. Andy’s observations are too compelling to paraphrase so I will turn the essay over to him.

"Living in Africa is absolutely amazing. There’s nothing else like it. You feel alive. That’s the best way to describe it. Things feel more real here. Maybe it’s because you are surrounded by so much death or things that could cause death. I’m not sure. But everything is an experience.
Going to the grocery store is an experience. Living here compared to home is absolutely insane and beautiful and real and it makes you want to leave and never come back, but also stay and never leave. It’s a roller coaster. You are surrounded by all of the amazing people that are dealing with things that you can’t even begin to fathom yet they are more happy and kind than most people I know back home. And you’ll never get to understand it. You are a stranger in a strange land, just passing through, scaring children who have never seen white skin before. My family has had this amazing experience twice now of passing through this part of the world. I have the luxury of leaving whenever I want. If things go bad here, I can go back home. For those around us, who have to pray for rain, pray for opportunity, pray for good health, they have to stay.  And pray they can make it for another day. But they do it with joy. Which makes me think we should pray to be more like Africans.

There’s are so many things that people pray for here, that I have, that I have all the time. Water. In Malawi, water is a huge concern for everyone. Their life and well being depends on it. They wait for the rains to come in order to plant their food. Then they hope they get enough to have a crop that can get through until the following year. This year, Malawians prayed for rain for two months as it came late. Many people were desperate and in serious need. Then around Christmas the skies broke and rain came. It came so much that it flooded the country and displace hundreds of thousands of people and destroyed crops. They prayed for the water to stop. It stopped. Now they pray for it to come again, but not as much as it did before so their crop can finish its course. The water is polluted and causes disease and death but it is a necessity here, that I take for granted every day back home….

Parents see their children die of malaria, malnutrition, etc. Many die because they do not have access to proper transportation or money to pay for transportation to the hospital. My wife Michelle has seen countless mothers arrive at the hospital with dead children strapped on their back. They have walked miles to receive treatment, but did not make it in time….

People living without all those things we take for granted. It makes you question what is important , what is essential, what is necessary. It makes me wonder if we aren’t the ones that live in a crazy place.  Andy ended with, I will offer one last thought. Most people pray here because that is all they have. And they pray a lot.”

Difficulties are just a matter of perspective. We never have it as good or as bad as the next person. It just is.  And we don’t have to look far for our own examples. The bathroom sink is clogged. The mower won’t start. It took twice as long to get to work. Running time is not getting any better. These are “first world” problems. These are problems that come not with abundance, but perspective.

It’s not what we have but how we use it.

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