Thursday, February 12, 2009

Selfish Generousity

Jake left at the crack of dawn to head out to Nyawa for the day. That's a 7-hour roundtrip on the motorbike. He swaggered in at 6:30pm, filled with mud and sand and looking like he was going to fall over. And then he sat down with his spaghetti and tried not to fall asleep into it.

I just have to say, I think my husband is really cool for biking all the way out to a little reached area through the mud and the muck and almost impassable roads. He said he took 3 falls today. That's something he wouldn't generally admit to or be proud of except for the fact that there were mud puddles the size of swimming pools covering entire sections of the road. He rode out, met with and encouraged local pastors and leaders, and came back to me in time for dinner. What a champ. I definitely would have burst into tears and pushed the dirtbike home after the first fall. That's why we take a Land Rover when I go.

Anyway, Sunda and I had a great day here. One of the things that we did today was go through a lot of the stuff that we left here last year. I am almost obsessive about not keeping more things than we need. It was awful going through everything that generous people gave us while we were home. I gave away and threw away SO many things that we just couldn't afford to transport or store. Plus, my life is difficult enough in Africa without having to deal with clutter. So, I compulsively give things away. These shoes a bit too tight? Give them away. This shirt look a little goofy? Give it away. We don't this cereal? Give it away.

I am convinced that if people in America had people to give stuff to, they wouldn't have so much stuff. I mean, really, how absolutely ridiculous is it that we live in a country where people fill their houses with stuff and then rent storage spaces to house the stuff that they can't fit in their two car garages? One of the best things about Zambia is that I can give away anything and it is completely appreciated and put to good use. However, I'm realizing that I often only give away the things that I don't want or don't think that we can use. The things that are no longer pretty enough or good enough for me. It's really no sacrifice to give these things away. In fact, it's convenient. In a land where no one comes with a big truck to pick up the garbage, giving it away saves me having to start a fire.

So, I'm not really giving at all. I'm letting someone else be my garbage service. And they appreciate it. But I often feel like a shmuck. Because I have to actually think, STILL, before I just automatically throw things in the garbage. Sock that's stained brown beyond recognition? Pitch it. Doll that is missing half it's hair? Pitch it. But then I catch people that I love, respect, and work with everyday going through my garbage pile. Dying to get ahold of the stuff that is trash to me. One day I picked broccoli from the garden to make for dinner. Broccoli (just in case you don't know) comes in a head attached to lots of leaves on the outside. Like cabbage. I trimmed off the leaves and washed the broccoli, then cut off the big part of the stalk before I started chopping it for cooking. The housekeeper stopped me and said, "You mean, that is the only part that you eat?" I said, "Of course! You can't eat the other parts, can you?" She then proceeded to chop up all of the leaves AND the stalk that I had put in the compost and make a delicious, spinach-like dish with them.

I digress. You really don't want me to try and post everyday. I'll just ramble.

My point is that as nice as it is to be able to take something that you don't want anymore and see it be put to good use, it's really difficult to stop and think before you throw anything away. And it's even more difficult to figure out how to give it away fairly and without causing a fight. And it's even more difficult when I remember that I live in a third world country and I still think it's okay to have 10 pairs of shoes and 6 pairs of jeans. Let's not talk about the 8 kinds of lotion/perfume. And I give away shirts that I don't really like. I think I could manage to actually GIVE something every once in awhile. Instead of just using people as my trash service.


Jennifer said...

While I get your point, I want to encourage you not to sell yourself short. You give "yourself" everyday, and that is not something you do out of selfish ambition. I love that you have been blogging everyday -- not that I have room to talk. Even if it's one large ramble digression.
love you!
Auntie Jenn

Beth said...

This post is something I think about often, although being in Africa certainly seems to take it to larger extents than my American mind does from day to day.l You've left me thinking this morning....