Gift Ideas - Handmade and Other

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 7: Simplicity and Substance

A group of about 20 of us ranging from young teen to mid-life adult stepped onto the tarmac in Belize City into the tropical heat of a blazing sun. We had come to work in a small village to build a hurricane shelter and to hold a Vacation Bible School (VBS). We hoped to make a difference. We accomplished our goals for that year, and we left with unexpected blessings from what we had seen and experienced.

 One of the most striking contrasts was between what Americans have and what most Belizeans do not have AND their attitude toward life.

None of us on the team would be considered wealthy by American standards. We were struggling to make ends meet and lived modestly. The trip to Belize was a financial stretch, even a sacrifice for most of us. However, comparatively we had so much.

The Belizean homes we visited ranged from dirt floors with walls made of sticks and mud to wooden structures to the nicest homes made of concrete. Yet we noticed that even in the nicest of homes, there was an absence of many of the "toys" we took for granted at home.

Despite the obvious poverty that abounded and an economic system that kept most people trapped in their poverty, we saw people who loved one another deeply and fiercely, who laughed, cried, gave generously, and played (especially soccer) together. We saw people who helped one another through the hardest of times. We saw people who were having a rich life experience despite their external poverty.

We were getting ready to leave, saying our good-byes and we were astonished. A young man that we had come to know well in our short time there had a sports trophy that he had won in high school. His family lived very modestly and this trophy was a treasured possession. He gave it to one of our fearless leaders, a man he had come to admire. This treasured, sacrificial gift meant so much to our leader and to us as a team as an expression of love and friendship. Others in turn gave each of us a gift, many sacrificially, many a special meaningful item and we were deeply touched by their generosity and the love that prompted it.

As I compared the American approach to life and the Belizean approach to life, what I saw reminded me of a dollar store gift lavishly wrapped beside a valuable, meaningful gift simply wrapped in plain paper. In American we had so much on the outside, so many things, so much that looked pretty and yet we were missing this rich life experience. We had exchanged substance for fancy frills.

I was drawn to the way the Belizeans we met lived simply, but with great substance. I was drawn to the way they gave themselves so fully to life. They drew from life so much - love, faith, family, friends, hard work, laughter, and generosity. They focused on the intangible things that give life meaning and substance. I was challenged to refocus on what had meaning rather than on the superficial.

Have you faced this challenge to add more substance and meaning to your life? 
What have you done to make that happen?

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