As I was hand washing our clothes today over our outdoor washboard sink, I instinctively grabbed another pair of pants from my basket and as soon as I looked at them, huge guilt feelings came to my mind. Why would I feel guilty about washing a pair of my husband’s old pants? Well, these pants go back to our Pre-Paraguay days when we were first married. We were getting our start in adventure racing and for his birthday I wanted to surprise him by buying the best adventure racing pants on the market. I scrimped and saved to make an extravagant online purchase (still a novelty in those days). Yet, they were so expensive; he didn’t want to wear them! Since they are expedition weight, they are too heavy for Paraguay’s heat. I feel guilty today and I know I won’t ever buy $100 pants again for Norb, myself or anybody.
Not because I don’t like to buy quality. I do.
Not because I don’t think he’s worth it. He is.
Since moving to Paraguay, I have seen too much poverty, too many children without clothes and I simply can’t justify extravagant spending when so many go without.
I am not writing this to make anyone feel bad about their nice clothes; I’m writing to self-disclose that it is easy to get carried away with consumerism and buying “the best.” Why do we need “the best” anyway? If I’m worth it, isn’t my Paraguayan neighbor worth it too? The only difference is that I CAN purchase $100 pants; that’s more money than what he’ll see in the next month.
So, what would it look like to intentionally forego “the best” of something and give the surplus to someone in need? I think what I’ve been learning about simplicity and stewardship these days is the joy of self-sacrifice to help someone else. Truth of the matter is, we hardly buy any new clothes anymore. Instead of buying 1 pair of pants for $100, we load up our suitcase with goodwill finds for ourselves and bless those around us when we come home and still have change in our pocket. Once you know poverty by a first name, you’re never the same.
"Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard." Isaiah 58:6-8, NRSV
How can your lifestyle be adjusted to take into consideration the poor around you?
What extravagance in your life can you exchange for simplicity?
When was the last time you got involved with helping the poor?
Do you know poverty by a first name?