28 December 2011

The One Percent and Me

I (Jim) have been wanting to write something about this for quite some time but I've been busy and I don't really know where to start.  I've been reading a lot about the "Occupy" movement - for quite a while.  First off, this isn't a political article - just some perspective.

It's been hard for me to get a real clear picture of what exactly the protests are about, but hearing the facts about the 1% making 1/3 of Americans' income made me start thinking.

In the US, I felt poor.  I had a masters degree and a steady teaching job and yet our family qualified for WIC (Food aid for low-income moms and children), our heating bill was subsidized through LEAP (again, for low-income families), and our kids qualified for free (but nearly impossible to use) state medical care - all because we were considered a low-income family.  From that perspective, it's easy to agree with the occupy movement - income distributions in the US are not fair.

Here, I feel wealthy.  We end up giving a lot of money away, lending money to people with hospital bills, buying antibiotics for people...  We 'bring home' even less now that we're missionaries but here in Kenya it's a lot easier to see how wealthy we really are.  I feel guilty when our house-helper sees avocados growing nasty molds - especially on days she has no lunch.  When the crippled guy peddling flowers asks if he can have a ten-dollar loan to buy his weekly batch of flowers to sell because he spent all his capital on medicines for his son who has pneumonia I see how richly we've been blessed.

Because I was curious, I looked up some facts about incomes worldwide - here's one that really hit home for me:  over 50% of the world's population lives on under two dollars per day.  (Over 80% live on under ten dollars per day.)

My parents visited last month and we celebrated an early Christmas with them - ham, cranberry sauce and all.  After eating, I took some of the traditional meal to our yard-worker, Edward.  He had a great time trying all the foods.  He really liked cranberry sauce, enjoyed the ham.  His favorite part was the stuffing; he didn't care for the olives.  NONE of it was familiar to him. After he'd eaten it and had seconds of the stuffing and that precious cranberry sauce he asked, "You eat like this every Christmas?"

"Yep."  I couldn't admit to him that I would have normally eaten twice the amount he'd just had OR that we'd had a meal like that only a month ago when we celebrated Thanksgiving or that we'd probably do it all over again when Easter came around.

"Wow!"  Wonder filled his face.  That he couldn't really fathom being wealthy enough to eat one meal like that was obvious - and Edward's a guy living on MORE than two dollars per day - better than over 50% of the world population!

I'm rich.  I use the internet, own a car, buy health insurance, have running water (hot water, no less) and listen to an ipod.  Maybe I'm not the one percent - but I eat until I'm full.

I'm not sure what to make of all this but reading Luke 16 has a different feel now.
Visiting Edward's House for Christmas.

22 December 2011

We weren't eaten by lions, I promise

It's been almost a month since the classrooms were emptied... we've been winding down from a whirlwind first term at Rift Valley Academy.

We've been busy learning to eat,
learning to hunt,

  and trying to stay dry in the very abnormal, very wet weather of Kijabe these last few months,
which, if you are Joel, has its advantage of a yummy termite crop!
 So we took off in search of some warmer adventures... which sometimes were more than we bargained for.  Yes, we crossed this in our car.  It's not lions that might keep us from blogging, but it's the raging rivers we should be afraid of.
Oh yes, and Grandma and Grandpa came and we were able to show them our home and the beautiful country we live in.
 We've prepared our home and our hearts for remembering the birth of our Savior,
 and also celebrated with our neighbors around us.  

Our hearts and minds are full of so many wonderful things.  We've had a lot to think about this term, and frankly, since we've come to Kenya.  Where does the Lord want us to be?  More importantly, what is he asking us to be doing with our lives?  We pray that we can grow to honor him in what we do, more and more each day and in the coming year.