Saturday, July 25, 2015
“Happiness doesn't result from what we get, but from what we give.” ― Ben Carson
I love living in a culture where possessions are treasured but quickly given to almost anyone who admires them. We have to be careful with our compliments when visiting others because they will take pictures off the wall or jewelry off their wrists to give it to us. We stopped telling churches out in the bush that we were coming because if they had advance notice, they would do without food for a couple of days so that there would be enough to give us for lunch after church. Now, we just show up and always have to leave quickly before they slaughter a goat to feed us—even while they barely have enough to eat. I first learned of this aspect of Tanzanian culture (it’s not only in Tanzania) when I went to visit an old, blind former pastor in his village. We walked quite a ways from our car to see him as he was an old friend of the pastor with whom I was traveling. The old, blind man of God lived in a small hut such that I had to duck my head to get inside. The hut was pretty barren, but there was one, three-legged stool on which the man was sitting as we came into the hut. It was dark inside with only one very small window, but the darkness didn’t matter to a blind man. He was so very excited to have visitors and cried as he embraced his old friend. I was introduced to him as a pastor from the United States and as one who was coming to Tanzania to live as a missionary. He was delighted to meet me and made me feel very welcome through his very broken English. When we got up to leave (I was sitting on his little stool at his insistence), he took the stool (his only piece of furniture) and handed it to me. He told me I had honored him and his home, and he would not be happy if I did not accept his humble gift. I had to take it, of course, but I was not comfortable with it (being an American). On the way out of his hut, I banged my head on the low doorway but didn’t cry out or say anything. After we got back to the car, I let out a yell and held my head. My hand came away bloody, and the two men with me congratulated me on not complaining in the blind man’s presence. I was told it would have crushed him, so I didn’t mind so much, but there is still a crease in my scalp if you look closely. I couldn’t fit the stool into my suitcase, so the Baptist missionary with whom I was staying took it and gave it to a poor, blind beggar in a village where the missionary had a church. Even since then, I never go out wearing a watch I would not give away in an instant if someone compliments me on it. It makes me feel good and helps me understand the culture of kindness that feels so very good. You can help create a culture of kindness in your own circle despite the prevailing moods of selfishness in society today. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, “Giving sets you free and warms your heart in special ways.” Give until it feels really good, and then, give because it feels so good.