I, along with many other people, love HGTV—for a variety of reasons. I’ve always enjoyed the show “House Hunters,” and a year or so ago as I watched a family of five that had outgrown their current home search for a newer, larger house, I had a real “ah-ha moment.” They were being shown a very large, beautiful home of 3600 square feet, but the mother was bemoaning the fact that there were only three bedrooms and three bathrooms. This house simply would not do because the children would have to share bedrooms and a bathroom, and the parents did not want that for their children. (I could get on a real soap box here and preach, but I will resist the urge.)
It was the sort of thing that just hit me in the face—such a blatant picture of the attitudes of so many Americans. We want ALL the stuff, and we don’t want to have to share it! For some reason, we occasionally have the attitude that we deserve all the stuff or that it’s our birthright to have all the stuff. Where did that come from? It’s amusing (and sometimes irritating) on “House Hunters” that young couples looking to buy their first house want the kind of house and belongings that they are leaving when they move out of Mom and Dad’s house. It took Mom and Dad a married lifetime to accrue the things that they have, yet these newlyweds want it all, and they want it now. They don’t want a “starter home” from which they will work up to a better house later as their parents did.
I’ve heard missionaries talk about living conditions in some foreign countries. One man, in particular, talked of ten people who all lived in one apartment that was perhaps 10’x10,’ including a hot plate for a kitchen with no means of refrigeration. They shared a bathroom down the hall with the residents of three other apartments. That could mean one bathroom with at least 20-30 other people. And for most of these people, transportation meant bicycles. And these were the fortunate people, the well-to-do of the commoners. Can you imagine what the aforementioned “house hunters” (with five family members) would have said and how they might have reacted if they had been shown that kind of living condition as a possibility for their family?
What would the ten people in the one apartment in a foreign country think of a house that was large enough to contain 36 apartments the size of theirs? Those ten people would not be able to mentally grasp the fact that only five people would live in that house of 3600 sq. ft. Plus, the lawns of the homes on “House Hunters” were large and magnificently manicured, often having an in-ground swimming pool. And, of course, those homes usually had a minimum of a two-car (often three-car) garage because everyone of driving age had his/her vehicle.
As I stated earlier, I’m not saying that any of this is bad, in and of itself, but I think that with Thanksgiving and Christmas coming up, we all need to be more aware of how truly blessed we are and what our responsibility is to others who are in need. Another reason that I think it is important that we think about the “stuff” in our lives is that sometimes the “stuff” becomes the focus of our lives, and we ourselves may start thinking that the “stuff” is important because it defines who we are.
Again referring to the book I mentioned in my last blog, Gracia Burnham’s To Fly Again; Surviving the Tailspins of Life, Mrs. Burnham asks, Who are any of us down deep inside, minus the accessories of modern life? If some force vacuumed away our many possessions, what would be left? (p. 32) Think about that for a minute. Minus the newer car, the cell phone (and all the varieties thereof), our nice clothes, our beautiful home and all its decorations, maybe even a beach house or home in the mountains---take away all of that, and what would other people see when they look at us?
Some cultures emphasize the importance of a man’s having a son. Not to have a son is considered a disgrace. We (Americans) find that strange, even illogical. But is it any different from our own penchant for defining ourselves by our wealth, our neighborhood, our zip code, our gold (if not platinum) credit cards, our ethnic heritage, our church affiliation, or our possessions? (p. 33)
The more we center ourselves on our true definition in God’s sight, not the possessions we have been able to gather or the esteem that others have given us, the more stable we will be in good times and bad. What other people think of us—and the artificial scales on which they rank us—is beside the point. They can make us neither better nor worse than we already are at our core. (p.37)
An article in the 9/4/2005 edition of the Shreveport Times quoted a 20-year-old woman who, with her boyfriend, had fled to a Shreveport shelter to get away from Hurricane Katrina: I never thought we’d be thought of as refugees. We used to be popular. We had all the new clothes and new stuff, and now, look. But you know--it doesn’t even matter.
Indeed, it does not!