Monday, April 27, 2009


Every night when I get into bed, there is a period of time (which seems eternal, but probably last a totally of 3 minutes) where I am absolutely freezing. Sometimes I run in place (lying in bed) just to try to generate some heat. There is some strange sort of architectural mystery that keeps our little apartment just under 60 degrees, and no matter how warm it is outside, I always want the heater on inside. If I ever discover the secret, I will package it and sell it in Arizona.

As I lay in bed the other night, feeling the fingers of the icy sheets from my neck to my toes & waiting for warmth to finally arrive, I asked myself an interesting question:

How many minutes in a day do I feel uncomfortable?

I usually stuff my face within moments of the slightest twinge of hunger. If I am hot, I turn up the AC in my car, and if I’m cold, I sit in front of the [awkwardly placed] heater in the hallway. If I have a headache, I pop some Advil, take a hot shower, and put my heat pack on my shoulders to release tension. Yes, there are definitely days where I miss a few hours of sleep, and end up feeling tired & irritable, or when I have a pain (heartache or headache) that just doesn’t seem to go away… but on the whole, I would say that I spend at least 23 hours of my day in relative comfort.

As this thought occurred to me, I remembered my time in Africa. I played back in my mind the emotions and sensations of waiting for hours in hunger for our next meal of rice & beans, or walking for miles in the hot sun—sun that felt as though a magnifying glass stood between us. I remembered running out of water for bathing or washing clothes, knowing that the rest of the refugee camp was also stuck without drinking water.

And as I remembered these feelings, I wondered to myself how many hours a day the rest of the population of the world feels uncomfortable.

It’s amazing to think sometimes that I went for a month without running water or electricity, and yet am so irritable when I run out of hot water 15 minutes into my shower. So often, I say that we need something—milk, a new bar of soap, a snack, etc, etc—when really, I haven’t had much experience with Need.

This concept really hit home yesterday when our laptop met it sudden and untimely death. One minute it was there, and the next it was dead (as the guy at HP said), never to wake again. Of course, that sent panic throughout our home, thinking of the information we had lost, the work that needed to get done, and the money it would cost to replace it. Chris spent most of the afternoon trying to diagnose the problem, researching new computers, and working out our finances. Not exactly how we planned to spend our day.

The haunting question of Need returned to me, as I looked at the barrage of information on the desktop computer at our office (yes, we own two computers!)—endless possibilities of new computers to buy, and ways to spend our time & money rectifying the situation. It was amazing to see how one malfunctioning electronic devise turned life on its head.

Yes, it’s true that our jobs really do revolve around our ability to get/give information. It is also true that we are on the go, and that sharing one desktop computer would be a huge inconvenience, slowing us down considerably and making us less efficient with our precious time. But to think that we Need a new laptop, when I know that our counterparts in Uganda all share one (broken) computer for the entire National Office just seems extravagant.

The temptation to rush off and buy a new computer the day that our old one broke, slapping the bill on our credit card, was stronger than I expected. Watching our meager tax return slip through our fingers before we even receive it is disappointing (Do you think Best Buy would take an I.O.U from the state of California??).

Thankfully, we are going out of town this weekend for a conference, and will have to put all shopping and spending on hold for a few days.

My hope is that it will be a time to take a deep breath and ask ourselves what we really need, and what we can do without. I also hope that the impulse to buy that cute little red laptop with the flowers will pass away…

1 comment:

hanagrace said...

Oh, it's SO cute, though!! Good for you. Frivolous spending is overrated. Great thoughts on the rest of the world, and what a Need really is. :-)