Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What's Missing from the "Simple Life" -- Part 1

I poked my head into the post office, hoping for the box filled with my compensation package for getting one year older. I held onto what really matters—my 1-year-old little girl with the muddy shoes. But I longed to see my mom’s handwriting on the birthday package from the other side of the world. 

The man spoke to me in my second language of Indonesian and told me it wasn’t here yet. That’s OK. Still one week to go until my birthday, and I clung to my daughter and to my lower-30s age as I got back in my car.

Our next stop was the home of my Muslim friend with the son who was almost 1 and who matters to my friend now. She tried to abort him early on, and failed, thankfully. She’s married to a good man with a job, and they have a 3-year-old daughter.

But when she learned she was pregnant with her son, she thought she couldn’t afford to have another child yet, and swallowed illegal pills that she hoped would stop the life inside.

I parked on the road, then walked up the narrow alley to her simple, two-bedroom house. She lives with a lot of people—seven brothers and sisters, parents, grandparents, husband, kids. They have no washing machine, oven, water heater or couch. They all share one bathroom where their shower consists of a bucket and a scoop. But their TV is bigger and flatter than mine. 

My friend wasn’t there, so I chatted with her witch doctor mother who told me how she can heal people’s stomachaches and see into their futures. And yet she couldn’t seem to cure her own arthritis.

This family is somewhat poor by Indonesian standards and really poor by American criteria. I’ve given many things to them over the years, the most valuable of which my friend accepted, flipped through and set aside. I hope she’ll read its gold-rimmed pages someday and discover the life inside.

I used to be confused that they didn’t feel like they had enough money to have their unborn child. But they could buy a TV and nice cell phones. I’ve lived in this country for seven years and I could tell you more stories just like this one. 

Stories that made my views of money no longer fit into my made-in-America box. Stories about poverty that hurts and giving that heals. Stories where a handout or a bigger wage didn’t fill the gaping nothingness underneath.

But then I figured out that money and stuff aren’t the real issues.

Find out what that real issue is in my next post later in the week.

(Picture at the top--a woman in a remote Borneo village, who uses a wood fire to make her meals.)

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