There’s a scripture Paul gives in the Bible that gives perspective on being content:
Philippians 4:11, 12
“Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be [content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.
He goes on to say, I know how to be abased and live in humble situations and circumstances, and …”I know also how to live in plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.”
One evening in in May 2003, in South Africa, the sun was setting, and we all were on our way back home headed for an almost two-hour trip and I captured this golden color in the sky. Although it looked as if there is a slight yellowish haze in the sky, the opposite is true. Some of this color was the fires in the air they would use to rid garbage that was days old in the shantytowns. In some neighborhoods, it was really hard to breathe, so we had to leave for fear of breathing in too much smoke.
We were trying to get out of the neighborhoods before dusk disappeared, and there was no light on the streets. They said after a certain time in the evening we had to make certain we were out of the small towns in order to be safe. There were no garbage men to come and collect trash like we have the pleasures in America. What we have in our own neighborhoods is a luxury.
Above, are the pictures of the dilapidated “shanty homes” that are located in their small villages In the air were strong smells of smoke and garbage.
I watched the people’s face I was with, and saw their noses turned up, sadness…. as if they were remembering something from the past. As if this area made them sadder they have ever been. and as if dread were on their faces. They had much love for the people; however, for when their faces came out of the homes, their faces lit up brightly, and they relished in seeing the smile they were welcomed with and quickly put away their frowns for the love of the people.
There were bright spots in the day; however. I was able to go by Diane’s house. ( I am so surprised I even recall her name, its been ten years now….) But I will never forget Diane. she lived in a room the size of of a large bathroom in a suburban home. I was embarrassed for her. She had the brightest smile. ( Diane is the one to the far right, above). She was happy to be alive and to have a job and a nice car. and that she did, but with her job as “a diamond polisher”, she really didn’t have much to show for it. She had sitting outside a nice maroon car, but barely enough room to move around in. she said she polished diamonds all day. And for her wages, she barely lived in a home the size of my den. it made me sad. But Diane was happy. I felt she deserved so much more. But her smile informed me she was not one who wanted much more.She was content. Even in this state.
Driving though a neighborhood like this in S. Africa, you learn to appreciate what you have. fresh air, a sun you can see, and smile on the faces of the people in the area, the flowers in full bloom. Other than people who I saw walking around in the area that day, I don’t recall seeing anything resembling having life other than people who lived there.
This profoundly affected me.
I remember a time living in Syracuse one summer and I was just angry, literally angry because the sun didn’t come out much that summer. It was a cold, cloudy summer and it affected my mood. It was then I decided I would not always live in Syracuse, NY. I decided if I needed anything, I needed the sun, to be content.
Sunshine made me content. Warm. Made me smile.
Imagine what this felt like for the people in Kuma, South Africa, to live without sight of the sun. Imagine not being able to see the sun. Imagine not being able to feel it’s heat and it’s warmth. Imagine having to breathe through fumes, daily.
When I think about (today in my life) what I have and I don’t have, I go back to the thought of Diane. And her tiny home, and her beautiful smile. And I realize that I cannot complain. She found contentment and so can I.
God is good and I need to accept that and that alone. Selah.
I am learning to be content. every day of my life. Though my heart aches for the people in Kuma, S. Africa, I enjoy remembering the company, the warm smiles and warm hearts.