I hope this post causes you to 1.) be more generous with what you have and/or 2.) value what you have more.
These past 10+ months in Honduras have been shaping me and causing me to form new habits and abandon old ones. There are a lot of things that I was used to back home that I am doing without here and that is certainly character-building. But the real kicker is that the kind of life I live here, which at first I considered sacrificial, is still seen by many around me as living in abundance. That blows my mind.
I’m caught between these two worlds – but I want so badly that they understand each other. People in the U.S. would say, “Oh my gosh, you have to work in the heat without AC sometimes?” and “Ugh, you have to throw your toilet paper in the trash??” and “You have to walk everywhere you go?” But they should know that that is the least of this country’s worries. I have people here in Honduras ask me in disbelief, “You mean in the U.S. you own a car?” And I just nod my head and feel embarrassed because it is my second car, the first of which I got before I turned 16. It is one of the 5 total vehicles owned by my immediate family. I don’t know many people in their twenties who have their own car here much less anyone who got a car on their 16th birthday. That is basically unheard of. If a family here shares a single car, they are doing fine. And I feel even more absurd when I think about the more recent times I was embarrassed to drive my first car because of the chipped paint and a broken sun roof and manual locks and windows. At times I’ve been a brat.
I just finished listening to a wonderful audiobook about reevaluating what we consider enough in our lives, especially concerning material possessions. I downloaded More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger for free on Noisetrade.com and it couldn’t have come at a better time in my life. Whether you think you’re living in overabundance or not (I would venture to say that you probably are – if you don’t agree, see how you stack up next to the rest of the world by comparing incomes) I would challenge you to read this book and consider how to free yourself from the slavery of excess and begin a life of radical generosity instead.
I used to feel uncomfortable writing or talking much about others’ wealth because I really don’t want to come across as condemning monetary success. I believe God blesses us to bless others. But, I think we should all do a little self-reflecting and ask for God’s discernment… and maybe the Holy Spirit will whisper to a few of us and say, “What are you thinking living this ridiculously lavish lifestyle while the rest of the world is suffering??”
In the book, Jeff highlights a few stories and challenges (experiments as he calls them) of several people he has met who are doing out of the ordinary things to free themselves of excess in their lives and live in solidarity with others. The chapter that convicted me was on clothes. This segment of the book featured a girl who decided to go as long as she could wearing each item of clothing she owned, one outfit a day, to see how many days she would last without repeating an outfit. It took her 156 days.
I can only imagine how long I would last with my wardrobe. I don’t have to count my clothes… I know I have too much. The sad part is that every time I go out I actually convince myself that I need something else. Now, I do not spend outlandish amounts of money on clothes. One way that I justify buying things more frequently is because I use coupons and go straight to the clearance aisles or shop second-hand. I never buy anything original price and I avoid name brands. I even still wear a pair of jeans and some black high heels that I have had since I was 16. But I realize that I have too much stuff. Just because the cute pair of platforms are on sale doesn’t mean that I need a 23rd pair of shoes. So I am starting my own little anti-consumer-mindset challenge. It is something that I have kind of been trying out for the last year since I’ve lived in Honduras anyway. In the last 3 months I have not bought a single item of clothing. To some, that is a great feat. To others, it would be a dream to be able to buy a new piece of clothing every three months. I will be moving back to the U.S. (for an undetermined amount of time) in about a month and I know that the temptation to purchase will be a lot stronger there. I am going to go through my closet(s) and give away everything that I don’t truly need. I am going to evaluate if there really is anything I should purchase (such as for a new job, one of the three weddings I will be attending in the upcoming months, etc) and starting from August through November I am taking a pledge to purchase no more clothing for myself. I probably will not understand the true challenge of this until I touch down on U.S. soil but I’m willing to accept it. Even when the challenge is over I hope to have altered my spending habits enough to create lasting change in my purchasing decisions.
Now are there trivial things that I want? Of course. Always. Which is why I keep a Pinterest board full of those wishes. But I am determined to detox my materialistic worldview until I am truly satisfied with the “bare necessities.” And this starts with redefining what really is a need and what is a want. I used to think a car was a need. I used to think air conditioning was a need. I used to think hot water was a need. Now, after almost a year in Central America… these all look like luxuries to me. Now, believe me, I can still turn into a diva when the power or wifi goes out or I run out of uncontaminated water to drink. But I have come a long way in the last year. 🙂 This challenge for me has several purposes:
- to live in solidarity with my second home, Honduras, and the majority of the world’s population
- to refocus my spending on more important things
- to be willing and prepared at a moment’s notice to meet the need of someone else
According to Find the Data, 65% of the nation of Honduras lives under the poverty line. I don’t want to be caught wasting my resources while my brothers and sisters are struggling for their necessities.
Would you join with me on a challenge of your own? Have you done something similar?