In many ways it feels as if this has been a hard one for our family.
My husband has changed jobs. Our schedule has turned itself upside down because of this. Our car just had major problems. Last year's tornado peppered our aging roof with holes. Our house is old, and it has many energy-deficient issues. Including the aging A/C system, which really does not like these super hot and humid days.
Sometimes thinking about all of the craziness going on is discouraging.
Then a few weeks ago we had the opportunity to listen to one of our church's teens talk about a mission trip he took to Africa last year.
Walker spent nine days in Malawi, where he took people's vital signs and interacted with the natives.
During his presentation, he showed us pictures of the food, their houses, their clothing, and even the kids' toys.
Each picture broke my heart just a little bit more - and made me feel ashamed for ever being unsatisfied with the state of our stuff.
Many people in this tiny village lived in shacks made of mud bricks. I use the term 'shack' loosely, because often there was no roof, no windows, and walls that appeared to be only waist high.
Then we viewed the mansions of the village - and these looked like the poorest of our poor neighborhoods' garages. These mud-bricked structures were bigger than the others, had roofs, and had big open spaces for windows. It still left much to be desired.
The bathroom was a communal one - a hole dug in the ground inside a fence made of straw. Leaves sprinkled on top of the hole after each use helped to contain the smell, and one's left hand took the place of toilet paper - literally. Stepping back too far while using the hole left one with dirty feet.
The 'toys' were pieces of string or vegetation rolled around and around, over and over, to make a ball. Soccer rules in this village, and everyone loves to play, despite the total lack of shoes.
Africa is not entirely like this, of course; there are wealthier and more urban areas, but many places like this exist, too, and these people are content in their lot - even joyful. They are not upset at what they don't have, but determinedly work to survive and share what they do have.
My windows may be less fancy than some, but they exist, which is more than many have. Our A/C system may not be icy, but it does cool the house. My children may be messy at times, but they have many toys which spark their imaginations and help them learn about the kinds of adults they want to be. Our schedule may be packed, but it's full of good things we can do together, with our family and friends.
I generally think that comparisons are a bad thing, as we often compare ourselves poorly with those around us.
Sometimes, however, they can put things back into perspective.
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