Saturday, April 29, 2017

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” ― A.A. Milne



                     We have sliced cheese again!  Those of you who don’t live in developing countries really don’t know what it is like to not have some very simple things whenever you want them.  We have gone without bacon for six months at a time, sliced cheese for three months, Coke Zero for two months, and occasionally there is no diesel available for two or three days.  Just yesterday there were no potatoes at the market—all of Bunda was without potatoes!  They said maybe tomorrow?  Can you imagine not being able to buy a common vegetable, order a pizza, pick up some milk, or even put gas in your car when it’s empty?  All those things happen to us from time to time, and there are some things we will just never get.  There are no fast food places, no convenience stores, and the closest restaurant is ten miles away with only fish, chicken, and beef on the menu.  We do not go out after dark, the roads are closed, and there are no street lights or store lights.  During the last elections, we shut ourselves in for a week having stocked up in advance to avoid the violence that was expected (never came to Bunda).  We do a lot of things that we used to do in the States, but there are a lot of things we will never do again.  It’s just not in the cards.  Karen was sewing and needed a needle threader—not available here.  So, we ordered one from Amazon.com (we have to get everything from there as we have no credit cards and Amazon will take payment from my bank account) and had it shipped to my daughter-in-law in New York City.  She will wait until there are several things we have ordered to arrive to make up a package and will then mail it to us.  We will get the needle threaders approximately six to eight weeks after Karen needed them (we have them now).  Can you imagine having to wait that long?  For anything?  
                  What we have discovered is that we can do without a whole lot especially since everyone here is in the same boat.  If there is no diesel for us, there is no diesel for anyone.  If our power goes out, so does everybody’s.  We used to love to go camping where we had to do without lots of things, and yet we loved it.  We are camping out here, but we don’t have a dirt floor (although all of workers do) or a canvas roof.  We have people who shop for us, cook for us, clean for us, drive for us, take care of the grounds for us, wash our clothes, iron our clothes, and when asked will wash our hair or massage our aching feet, and we are very grateful.  We pay all our workers and teachers from three to four times the national average and pay all of their social security and health insurance as well.  How much does it cost to pay for five full-time workers and their social security?  About $600 a month is all—for five full-time workers.  That wouldn’t even buy us one week in a retirement home in the U.S., but here, well, our workers don’t just work for us—they are like family.  They pray for us when we are sick.  They come in on their days off to make sure the dogs are fed or to bring us the medication we need.  We support their children’s schooling (it’s not free here), rejoice with them at the graduations, and always give them money for the families of their neighbors who die (at least one or two a month).  They all have biosand filters and we are working on getting them solar power (lights and phone charging) in their houses (two now have it).  They are very grateful and they show it.  Of the five, three have been with us for ten years or more and the other two for at least four years.  If John turns his ankle, they will carry him back to the house.  We couldn’t be in better hands—thank you, God.  So, we who have so little in some ways are rich beyond belief in many, many others.  It really doesn’t take too long to adjust from a world where “That microwave is too darn slow!” or “Why is every bank line I get in the slowest?”  We don’t get same day delivery on anything (even malaria takes eight days to hit).  The thing is that when you live like we do, it is very easy to focus on what is really important—and it’s not convenience.  It’s all about seeing smiles on the faces of the people we help and who help us.  It’s about relationships—you know those things that are beyond price and that make living worthwhile.  The pictures I like to see best on Facebook are those where families and friends are together.  That’s what’s important.  Our definition of “family” here goes way beyond those that share DNA or last names.  I think most of you know what I mean.  Next time you are in a hurry and angry about traffic or lines, start naming each and every person you are glad God put in your life.  That kind of gratitude will put a smile on your face and lighten your heart.  You won’t stay angry long, and you can take that to the bank.
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