As I made the hour and a half journey home from French class yesterday, I thought about America. America, the land of convenience. America, where you can find practically everything and anything you could want. Vegan food galore, Crossroads Trading Companies everywhere I go! Garbage disposals, elevators, hot tubs… and if you don’t feel like leaving home to buy something – order it online! Life is freaking easy as long as you’ve got enough to pay your bills with some to spare.
I remember back when my job was painting houses. They were mostly in Malibu, and I remember standing in one child’s bedroom, staring out over the ocean and thinking… what will this child’s life be like? Will they feel entitled? Will they always expect this standard of living? Will they always have this standard of living? Will everything else be a disappointment and a shock?
After that moment, I have often have thought to myself (and said out loud) that if I were to have children, I would not raise them in America, because I would not want them to become accustomed to such convenience and luxury, only to find it difficult to face life as the majority of the planet experiences it. Even going from Los Angeles to Paris, another big city on the other side of the ocean, it’s shocking how much less convenient life is. Once you stop fighting it, you get used to certain things. But if I were to have children, I would raise them somewhere even less convenient. A visit to Los Angeles or Paris would be like a trip to Disney World. Built for convenience and fun, but you don’t want to live there.
We – nearly everyone I know – have it better than so many people in the world. We have more money than most people in the world, even if we don’t have much. We have beds. We live in safe communities. We have food. We aren’t fleeing war, we haven’t lost our families and all of our possessions. Compared to so many people in the world… is much in our lives a disaster? Even if we aren’t pleased with our current situation… isn’t it usually something we can get through? Isn’t our life one that someone else could probably be wishing they had?
This year has been full of “emergencies” for me. Pet emergencies, dental emergencies, etc… I’ve been blessed with enough money this year to take care of them and bounce back, but I recently have been faced by yet another emergency, this one bigger than all the rest combined. Don’t worry, I’m alive, the pets are alive, everyone is alive. But it’s got me in a thoughtful place. The mobile home I own (and have for sale, anyone interested? It’s near the beach!) couldn’t take the recent heavy rain and the roof needs extensive repairs, as does some of the ceiling inside. I was quoted several thousand dollars and a repair date was set for the end of October – the soonest available time slot. I’ve had to make some major adjustments in my expectations for the coming year to be able to afford this, but after allowing the stress to take me down with a cold for a week, I was ready to roll with the punches. However, after gathering my strength again, I was told that the person I rent the mobile home to also wants thousands of dollars for being inconvenienced, which I simply do not have. Therefore she has decided to move, leaving me in a precarious situation that threatens to throw me into debt whether I like it or not… with a mobile home under repair and up for sale, and no money to cover any vacant time between renters. Which brings us to today, as I sit and ponder why we demand so much out of life, and out of other people, and why our first thought in America is to turn to lawyers rather than have compassion on one another and work together.
Life isn’t always safe or convenient, and we can’t expect that someone else make it so for us. OK, OK, I’m sure some friends reading this think I’m a hypocrite, because I can definitely be a princess sometimes trying to recreate my American life everywhere I go, but this is part of me I am working to change. Life outside of America is definitely helping me to accept the present moment and appreciate what I have. I am at least intellectually aware of how I should approach life, and am still working through my convenience-loving tendencies.
But back on track. Things happen. And we will be inconvenienced. But even if I am suffering, why should I cause suffering to another just to ease my own? Why would I demand things from someone who has less than I do, even if my lawyer or anybody else says I could? I’m sure I have the “right” to many things, but if I feel it’s unfair to someone who has less than I do, then I decline to exercise that right. If you have less than me, I don’t want anything from you. Am I the only one? It seems that people like to get as much as they can, and they don’t care where it’s coming from.
But there are some people (Americans) who understand how imperfect life is. I had a friend in Paris with a horribly warped floor for months, and then it was finally ripped out and he had no floor (well, cement) in the hallway for months more. No compensation for inconvenience or safety. I have a friend – in LA! – who goes without electricity on some days, and does not get any rent reduction. I have had experiences where I am inconvenienced without utilities or without use of a room, and I have not demanded nor received any monetary compensation. When everyone is doing their best, and I can deal with the temporary situation (as inconvenient as it is), I am learning to accept it as a part of life. And I am doing my best. I am not putting off necessary repairs, and I am compromising my own comfort to get it done. It’s my responsibility to keep the house livable, but I don’t see it as my responsibility to make sure that everyone else’s lives are free and clear of any inconvenience. This is what renter’s insurance is for, right? lol. But seriously. If I’m renting from someone I know is struggling financially, and nature decides that today is the day to make life a little harder on both of us, I don’t try to completely finish wiping this person out just because I may have the option to.
Maybe this isn’t all a mind-blowing revelation to you. Maybe you don’t suffer from the American convenience mindset. That’s awesome! Whew. And maybe I think about this a lot because I suffered from it for a long time (and am still recovering), so it’s concerning to me. And embarrassing because I am part of it. But I’m changing. 🙂 I swear!
I have a goal in life to help people, and what I want to do is not something I will earn any money from, because I will be giving to people who have nothing. Want to know what my goal is? 😀 To buy land (probably in Panama), build a house, and grow moringa! I want to help educate people about moringa and give away the plants I grow. I’ll welcome travelers, who can also learn about it and help me with the gardening. I would also like to learn about and teach energy healing, going out into the world and healing people (leaving someone else to run the farm!) This is the basic plan. Much more I want to do with my life. But to make my goal happen, I need to earn and save money. The longer it takes me to save it, the longer others go without help. And it frustrates me very much. This coming year I had planned to visit Panama again for a longer stay, and visit a moringa farm while I’m there. I also had planned to FINALLY get to India and learn about moringa and other healing herbs at an herbal hospital. But this recent incident has been a major setback, and could get even worse with my renter moving out, if I don’t find someone new right away.
For now, I do what I can to cut back, and I do what I can to create new income streams. I meditate and work on cultivating a positive attitude to attract more wonderful people and situations into my life. It’s been discouraging, not only losing so much money this year (although I have been really blessed that I have earned more money this year than last, and have been able to get out of my credit card debt! Praise God! Woo hoo!), but witnessing the dark side of the American spirit. The funny thing is, it makes me want to give more. It makes me want to put more money into my Kiva account, to sponsor another woman to go to school, to give money to friends who are struggling more than me… I haven’t done these things… yet… (obviously I’m in a little rut right now, with money)… but something about having people who don’t need money ask me for amounts of money that I can’t give them, makes me want to compensate in some way. To make up for it, to the universe. To have double compassion! To say, yes, I have faced setbacks. Yes, my life is not perfect and I do not like the situation I am in. But I know that someone is facing worse, and I want to help ease their suffering, because I have the power to do so. I will always, somehow, have enough power to ease someone else’s suffering. And if I am in a position to do so, then that is what I must do.
We’ve got to get over this attachment to convenience. It’s not a right. We are so blessed in our lives. Too blessed to be spending so much negative energy on a temporary setback. Too blessed to be trying to make others suffer so that we can have more.
If you want to help ease the suffering of others with less, I want to recommend the following:
Dreamhost is matching donations to Doctors Without Borders
kiva.org makes loans to small business people around the world
Women for Women International helps women in countries affected by war and conflict, offering access to life-changing skills to move from crisis and poverty to stability and economic self-sufficiency.