Having little compared to what?

I was just remembering the discussions I had with my son when he was stationed overseas while in the Army.  He was deployed to fight the war on terror….in Djibouti, and Ethiopia mainly.  His experiences brought to  his attention how much we as Americans have and take for granted.

Beautiful but dangerous

His first phone call home he talked about how the people lived, how they lived in huts, without doors and owned very little.  But what surprised and dismayed him the most was how the people adapted to live with the baboons who threatened them daily.

At night the baboons would tear through the huts looking for food. To protect themselves and their families the people would put all of the food they had outside the hut allowing the baboons to take what they wanted.

These are people who have no running water, no indoor toilets (they used the river which was lit on fire each night to burn off the human waste).  They didn’t have comfortable furniture to sit on, or even a door to close for safety.

This is extreme poverty, a kind most of us will never know.   When I think about how I live today, I do live simply compared to many in the first world, but I have so much more than others who live with barely nothing.  I have choices others don’t have.  All my needs are met, which many can’t say the same. What I do own is mine, I don’t have to set my food or other belongings outside to ensure some sense of safety.

Sometimes all we need to do is remind ourselves of how much we really do have as a reminder that we don’t need more.   Simplicity and having enough is all in our mind-set.  When we can be satisfied with what we have we will find the happiness we were seeking all along.

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10 comments

  1. What a beautiful post. Reminds me of a quote that I have seen attributed to several different people: “In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”

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    • I’ve never heard that quote before but it gets right to the point of the matter. When I begin to get frustrated by my limitations I remind myself of all I have and get over myself pretty quickly.

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    • It is humbling, I knew people lived much worse off than I did, but until my son called me to tell me of his experiences I had put the extend of that knowledge away somewhere in the back of my mind.

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  2. This is a wonderful reminder. I often think about how we in the U.S. “panic” over tiny stuff all day long…Lenore Skenazy (author of free range kids) is a big advocate for letting kids have freedom to play outside the way we did as kids and reminds us that we’re not living in a war-torn place and shouldn’t live like we are. It’s also great to remember in terms of decluttering and what you can live without. It’s so true that the most filled and happy feelings come from feeling grateful for what you have. Advertising and mass media have worked tirelessly to get us to feel unhappy with what we have. It’s a strong force to overcome but I’m so glad people like you are getting the word out there.

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    • Thank you I couldn’t have said it any better than you just did. When it comes to children, I was fortunate to live on the outskirts of a very small town and was able to let my children be children. It was fun to watch them creating forts out of fallen timber and roofing nails. Many of their friends tended to sit indoors on video games instead. I’m not sure if I would have been as comfortable letting them, but I would like to think so.

      On the subject of advertising, it is one of our greatest evils. Marketers will find any reason to pitch something else to us we don’t need. Living without a television has eliminated having to see these ads. Another way we instill this “need” for a materialist life comes from our schools. I never realized how hard they pushed the children until my oldest came home one day from 4th grade upset because he didn’t know what he wanted to do as an adult. His teacher had told him he needed to know now to prepare for college or he wouldn’t be able to make it in the real world and wouldn’t have the home etc he was supposed to have.

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