In our family, we often perceive ourselves as the “Have Nots.” Everybody has more than we do. There is always something more we need to buy, and it is an embarrassment to even admit that we are lacking in the areas where “everyone else” has an abundance.
Well, this compare snare we’ve gotten ourselves into has yielded nothing good, so last week we decided to do something to change our perspective.
In our weekly email to our brother/uncle serving a two-year volunteer mission in the Philippines, we listed all the things that are bothering us about our home and circumstances. Then we asked him to tell us how our huge, terrible problems compare to those of the people he sees and works with every day. Here are his responses to our list of woes:
1. (Us) We have to keep boxes stacked up next to the dryer to keep it closed.
(Jon) People here have to scrub their clothes themselves and then hang them up to dry because they don’t have a dryer (believe me, its not fun…I’ve made my knuckes bleed while scrubbing).
2. We have paint chips on all of the walls.
People use cinderblocks as walls here.
3. We have no grass in the backyard.
People don’t have backyards here.
4. Our carpet has stains on it, and we have to get new carpet.
I have never seen carpet in any of the people’s homes here.
5. The sliding doors on our bathtub are broken.
I have never seen a bathtub here either!
6. We want our own bedrooms because we are tired of sharing.
A lot of homes here are just one room with bamboo dividers for rooms (if their home is big enough).
7. Our dishwasher leaves a weird film on the dishes.
To wash dishes here, you have to go get your water from a well and wash them all by hand.
8. One of our cars is making a weird noise because of something wrong with the brakes.
You are considered rich here if you own one car.
9.The family (especially Ethan) wants better desserts.
A lot of children would just like to have ulam (the stuff they eat with their rice).
10. The kids want better toys.
Kids don’t have toys here; they just make up games and play with each other all day long.
11. Grace and Alia want a little sister.
People might have that same problem here too!
12. Spencer wants more toy cars.
Oh…kawawa naman si Spencer! Haha. (I have no idea what that means, but I can guess…)
13 We want to go to Hawaii.
People here would love to go on a trip to even just Baguio for a day but can’t afford it.
14 The fridge and microwave don’t match the other appliances.
Haha! People here have no appliances and still cook food over an open fire.
15. Ethan wants a Wii (video games).
Children here don’t know what a Wii is.
16. We’d like to have a vacation home.
Some people would like to live in something more than a bamboo hut!
Just reading those responses to our problems brought tears to my eyes. It was a wake-up call for all of us, and occasionally when we start to forget how much we really have, we get out this email and read it all over again.
I know it isn’t wrong to want our home to be beautiful and clean, and I can’t blame my children for wanting all the toys they see their friends enjoying, but taking some time to appreciate the comforts of our lives has changed our family discussions. We try to talk about what we can do to help others, and we express gratitude for our food, our clothing, our home, and our family.
When I feel like complaining, “I have to drive ALL the way to Orange County to go to the doctor,” I think, “I am so grateful I have insurance and qualified doctors to take care of all my health needs.” When I get frustrated about all the stinky diapers I have to change each week, I stop and think, “At least I have diapers for my baby.” And the more I do this, the more I realize that my complaints are really not that big of a deal. My parents always taught me, “If money can solve your problems, then you don’t have any problems.”
One other principle I’ve learned is that while we can easily consider ourselves to be the “Haves” and those in the Philippines as being the “Have Nots,” in many ways, it is actually reversed. Have you ever noticed that people who don’t have as many material possessions are more able to show appreciation for what they have? A strong work ethic, faith, kindness, joy, and helpfulness are attributes that money simply cannot buy, and sometimes all our wealth gets in the way of us truly developing the strength of character we need.
From this point on, I hope our family can focus on what we are meant to become, and I hope that we can reach out to show love and compassion to others…instead of worrying about whether we’re the “Haves” or the “Have Nots.”
QUESTION: How often do you find yourself “wanting” something?
CHALLENGE: The next you “want” something stop and think, is this something I “need” or is it something I “want”?