My friend, Renee, is ministering in Burkina Faso. Even by Western African standards, this country is poor, having endured frequent droughts and political instability. There are many needs, especially where it applies to quality of living and the availability of education and medical assistance. She is there to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to serve those needs.
As I sat this morning, drinking my imported coffee that was grown in the African soil, I thought about the contrast of her world to mine. Despite being half a world away, life on this side of the ocean has some similar challenges. More than ever, there is the struggle of single-parents trying to raise children, and the growing numbers of working-poor. Goods and services in our democratically-free country come with a high price tag due to hidden taxes and over-inflation. We live in a self-imposed caste system because of our devotion to brand names, designer clothing and upscale lifestyles. Unlike the Africans Renee works with, we can put ourselves in the expensive seats according to the limits on our credit cards. This is not a judgment as much as a reality check; one that I, too, am guilty of.
We hide our struggles. Bleeding out on someone is unwelcomed, yes. Yet, an appropriate sharing of our burdens is healthy. It keeps us real and truthful. It forges meaningful relationships. It invites others in. When you ask people how they are doing, nine times out of ten their response will be, “I’m doing fine.” We feel obligated to give those around us a “perfect picture of our perfect lives,” which are far from perfect.
Maybe that is the biggest difference between Rene’s picture of her community and our lives in the land of plenty. We live in a pretense that they have no wherewithal to create. In her area of Africa, it is what it is and there’s no hiding it. Do we miss a lot of joy because of our obscured realities?
I am very grateful that I live each day in relative safety and without hunger in a lawful country. To add to this, though, will be a daily practice of giving back in proportion to what I take, of living with what I can afford, of being inclusive and generous to those who struggle. I want to make each day count, where I will not miss out on the great gift of joy!