I don’t know its source, but there is a saying: Live simply so that others may simply live. It is a catchy turn of words, but with all respect to the sentiment intended, it is not as simple as that, is it?
In Africa, I am learning to do with less. When I see that there are people here living comfortably with less than I brought in my suitcase, I’m not about to complain about what I am missing. Let me be honest, I’m writing this at a coffee shop that looks much like one we would find at home. I was able to take a hot shower this morning. I will have three good meals today, and if I wanted something, I have the means to hire a driver to take me into town to get what I want. A few days ago, we rode past homes being built inside Ol Pejeta, the wildlife conservancy. The homes look similar to homes being built in Plymouth, so that the homes will appeal to westerners. Our driver told us the price tag, thinking we would be surprised by the cost – 20 million Kenyan shillings. But that’s just $225,000 – a bargain! Living in Kenya, it would not be necessary to live with less. But I’ve been thinking about what I want and what I need and what defines my life. And what would God want for me?
Saturday morning, we went to market. At home, I love going to the farmer’s market, and this was the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market on steroids. The quantity of produce was impressive. Bananas right from the tree, mangos, popo, pineapples, potatoes, zucchini, onions, tomatoes, oranges, and so much more – even chickens ready to be taken home and butchered. Once again, the youngest children were fascinated by my presence. Carol and I were the only mzungus that I noticed in the market, but I think it was my size as much as my skin color that prompted the waves, the smiles and the giggles. Shake hands with this giant mzungu, and you’d have something to tell others when you get home! As is normal here, there are two prices for the produce – depending on the color of one’s skin and the ability to speak Swahili. And boda bodas everywhere. The boda bodas are motor cycles for hire. We’ve been amazed by the things we’ve seen hauled by motorcycles. (In Nairobi, it was a couch!)
As we came to the end of the market, Carol pointed out the matumba. This is the clothing market. Rows and rows of vendors selling clothing. The clothing is shipped in large bails from the US and Europe. It is the used clothing that has no useful purpose for Americans. The quantity of used clothing is especially impressive when one realizes this is just one of a great many such markets throughout the developing world. Do we really have this much excess? I think of my own home with closets that are bursting with clothing forgotten long ago, and I feel a little ashamed. I guess there is comfort in knowing my discarded clothing serves a useful purpose. It also explains why we see some people walking around in designer clothing – not knowing that it is designer clothing. Live simply and let your castoffs benefit others around the world.
This trip is about what lessons God can show me – if I’m willing. I see the marketplace. I see a contentment in what those around me have. Could there be a message for me in all of this? So, I opened the book of Proverbs to this verse: Honor the Lord with your wealth. (Proverbs 3:9) And a few verses later, these words:
Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.
Living into the journey…