If you're reading this you probably have some kind of mobile device or laptop. You probably have access to the internet. You might be sitting on your plush comfortable couch or bed. If you're like me you might be snacking on some dark chocolate. These are things that we should be thankful for, yet all we can do is find things to complain about. We're privileged in many areas of life, and yet we choose to emphasize the unprivileged areas. We'll never be able to completely relate to those who have no food, education or home, but we can be thankful for what we do have, and do our best to give to others.
My dear friend Naomi spent the past 10 weeks participating in something called the Simplicity Challenge. This involved removing something from her life each week to make life simpler. And it teaches us just that-to be thankful, and not to take the little things in life for granted. We have so much to be grateful for, and we don't realize it until it gets taken away from us. Imagine if your phone was taken away from you, if your comfort food was taken away, or if your bed was taken away. Here's how Naomi came to learn of gratefulness in the simple, little things---
10 weeks ago I stopped eating anything but rice and eggs. 9 weeks ago I wore nothing but my school uniform for a whole week. What brought about these crazy changes? I’m glad you asked.
Simplicity. That’s what. This last summer, God put a certain Simplicity Challenge in my path. Basically, for 10 weeks I had to give up something and ‘empathize with people who have less than me’ along with realizing how blessed I am. I was excited to see what God would teach me and how he would use the challenge. I thought that I could handle this challenge and that while it wouldn’t be easy, it wouldn’t be TOO hard. How very wrong I was.
The first week I almost gave up before the day was over. I was supposed to eat rice and eggs for a whole week and nothing else. Rice and eggs for breakfast, lunch, dinner, AND snackage. Not only did this make eating extremely annoying, I didn’t see how any of this was making my life simpler. I had to bring my own lunches to school, my mom went out of her way to make me things I could eat, and I was an inconvenience to anyone who wanted to go out and eat. This wasn’t what I had in mind when I thought simple. What was God doing and when would that big revelation come along?
The second week came along and while I was so SO thankful to have a normal diet, I was much less thankful for my school clothes. The second week’s challenge was to wear one outfit for a whole week and since my school has a uniform, I had to wear that uniform for the week. Now throughout the week it wasn’t too bad but when the weekend came around, things started going downhill. My friend’s birthday was that week and we were going bowling but he didn’t want me to wear a uniform there (understandably). This made me wrestle with myself and ask, why am I doing this? Who am I doing this for?
10 weeks have gone by and I’m not going to go into detail about each and every week but there were weeks that weren’t as hard, weeks where I wanted to pull out my hair, and definitely times where I cheated. And at the end of this all, what have I learned?
Early on in the challenge, my mentor told me about this tribe in Myanmar: the Rohingyas. They are a minority group who are heavily persecuted by the government and are barely surviving. They are being killed and have next to nothing. Going into the challenge I thought that I was trying to get a glimpse into a poor person’s life and try living in their shoes. That definitely wasn’t happening in my eyes and I was so confused. Not only was life becoming more complicated, but I didn’t see any changes in my heart. After hearing about the Rohingyas, I realized how disgusting my attitude was. I was putting myself through miniscule sufferings and to complain about that was completely, utterly selfish. I was complaining that I had to wear a school uniform to go bowling! How blessed am I to have a school uniform, a school, friends to go bowling with? And all I could do was complain while all around the world, people are hurting and have literally NOTHING. I’m so blessed that when the slightest thing gets taken away, all I can see is how awful life is.
This doesn’t mean that we should give up everything we have of course. God has blessed us each in our own individual ways and by throwing those things away, it’s basically throwing away God’s gifts to us. Accept these blessings with a grateful, humble heart but be ready to bless others. It’s not a new lesson, no big revelation but sometimes we just a need a reminder to be thankful and to realize how blessed we are.
Would I ever do this challenge again? Probably not. Am I thankful for the ten weeks where I did have this challenge? Yes. God works even if you can’t see it and I’ve had to learn that we can’t always expect revolutionary lessons but be on the lookout for the gentle (or not so gentle in this case), intermittent reminders. Look around you. Count your blessings and praise God for what he’s done and what he’s going to do.