Lessons from Africa, #3


Some talents come naturally. On top of that, our environment can add to the development of those talents. Think of a naturally gifted athlete,living in a family of athletes (Peyton and Eli can tell you about that), their talent is almost destined to grow!

I’m afraid our environment (Western culture) stokes a “talent” that comes naturally to people anyway. Put in the form of a question: ” Have I become an expert at complaining?”

People complain, it’s as predictable as human nature. Go back 3,500 years and one of God’s biggest issues with the ancient Israelites was how much they complained in the midst of adversity.

I try to be positive, and to be honest, I don’t care much for complaining. But, I caught myself in Africa with a realization that much of our complaining is relative to how good we really have it.

We were staying in a hotel near the relief site we were working at. Nothing fancy, and in light of the hotel’s claim to excellence….I realized “excellence” is a relative word.

Anyway, I’m taking a shower in the morning (morning comes early…sunrise around 4:30 a.m.and local roosters draw your attention to the increasing light in your room), and after waiting about 2 minutes….I gave in to taking a cold shower! I did the typical shivering shower routine, jump under the spray, jump out to lather, back under to rinse…all the while mumbling about it being cold! You know the drill, right?

A couple of us jokingly complained about our cold showers at breakfast. Except for the one guy who got up early enough for a warm one, he laughed at our chilly misfortune. That’s when it hit me.

Complaining is largely relative to how good you’ve got it (or had it.) If I saved the conversation for a couple hours later, while visiting the homesteads of rural Zambia, I might very well get asked “What’s a shower?” At the very least, from people without running water, they might ask, “What’s wrong with a cold one?”

I would dare suggest that many people in third world countries would feel special and privileged if they had a shower in their home…hot or cold! The more we have, the more we have to complain about.

We complain about what we don’t have, as our expectations ever increase. Then, we complain when what we do have disappoints us, doesn’t work, or wears out (ever had car trouble?)

What if we reversed that? What if the more we have, the more we were thankful? Instead of developing expertise in complaining, what if we were experts at gratitude? Thankful even when the car breaks down…Thankful for what we already have (clothes, cars, cell phones, computers, homes, toys) rather than complaining about what we don’t have.

It appears that the less you have, the less you have to complain about! Let’s reverse it…let’s make our “First World Expertise” our gratitude. The more you have, make it the more you have to be thankful for!

One thought on “Lessons from Africa, #3

  1. I am working to have an attitude of gratitude. God has been so good to me that I cannot begin to thank him enough for his mercy and grace. I have more than enough and plenty to share. Again this Christmas, my husband and I are not buying any gifts for each other. Frank thought of buying me a book of love sayings that was a leather embossed book with my name on the front. This cost $110. I told him he could write a few sayings on a piece of paper, save this money, and give the $110 to church for a better cause. A few days later, $110 was requested by our church. That’s our God. So, forgive me when I complain. I have so much.

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