I have a guest blogger today! My husband wrote this and I asked him if I could share it with all of you. Enjoy….
I stepped into the front seat of the sedan and instantly felt myself transform into a world of luxury and style. The contoured leather seats, the cool breeze of fresh air conditioning blowing on my face, the bright lights of the European style dash, everything shouted wealth and luxury that seemed so distant in this land of immense poverty. The engine roared and then quietly hummed as this beautiful vehicle weaved through the traffic with such comfort and speed that I felt like a million bucks riding in this amazing luxury/sports sedan.
The car belonged to an extremely successful Ethiopian businessman. He held sole Ethiopian distribution rights for a number of the top medical device equipment manufacturers in the world, ran the top diagnostic clinic in Addis and had a number of other lucrative businesses on the side. And the beautiful luxury vehicle that had me coveting a car like his to drive around Addis? … A six month old Toyota Corolla.
Being in Africa changes your perspective on things. Toyota Corollas are wonderful cars, particularly when equipped with all of the bells and whistles like Dawit’s was. However, I cannot recall ever in the US dreaming of the comfortable air conditioned, shock absorbed ride of a Corolla the way one might fawn over an exotic Italian sports car. Here in Ethiopia a new car of any kind is seen as a luxury only the truly wealthy can afford. Even more so a new Toyota, which is the premium brand to own here.
Actually, a vehicle of any type and age is an extraordinary luxury. In the US we hear people talk about the “1%” referring to the jet-setters who own private yachts and small islands (with a helicopter to transport them between the two). In Ethiopia not even “the 1%” own a car of any type. Less than 3/10ths of 1% of the entire population own any type of vehicle (far less actually, because there are 3 vehicles for every 1,000 people – including foreign owned vehicles such as the huge percentage of UN vehicles on the road, government and business owned vehicles, taxis, etc). Nearly all of those cars are at least 15 years old, most of them 30 years old or more.
Shortly before leaving for Ethiopia I found myself bemoaning the 160,000 miles our minivan had on it and feeling like it was time for a newer car before we started having serious mechanical difficulties. What I would give for a vehicle just like our “old” minivan to have here in Ethiopia! A car with 200,000 miles here is just getting started, and “air conditioning” means that the windows can be rolled down (another luxury not to be taken for granted).
In the US I have always had an issue with coveting things. Here I find I have the same issue, but living here has certainly changed my perspective on the things I covet. Now I covet what I have back home. I covet air conditioning, I covet reliable clean running water, I covet fast Internet, I covet cheeseburgers and cereal and peanut butter! I covet my own life – realizing just how good I have it – how good all of us who live in America have it.
It is convicting to realize just how rich I am. The “Ethiopian Scott” (referring to my temporary lifestyle and living condition) is extremely wealthy by Ethiopian standards. What most Ethiopians wouldn’t give to have a life like Ethiopian Scott! And yet Ethiopian Scott would LOVE to be able to spend just one day in the life of American Scott. To be able to sleep in my comfortable bed, to be able to swim, to be able to ride in my comfortable car (Yes, I keep coming back to that. Can you tell the whole car comfort thing is kind of a big deal for me here? ). If I could be “transported” back to the US for 1 day just to take a break and then transported back here, oh what a vacation that would be!
If you’re in the US, right now I covet your life. Take some time to go grab a cheeseburger for me and enjoy every moment of it. Eat some peanut butter and then go for a ride in your car on the smooth roads of North America. Breathe in the clean air and sip on some ice cold water straight from the tap. Do it for me, and then know that I am dreaming of being in your spot right now. Ahhh, you have it pretty good. And so do I. We are truly blessed to have all that we do. Why do we want more? What more could we possibly want?
But you know what, in a lot of ways Ethiopia has it right. They don’t have the luxuries that we have, but they truly value family, friends and especially children. They realize that looking into your child’s face – even if it is filthy because your home’s floor is made of dirt and hungry because you can only afford one small meal a day – is a treasure that money cannot buy.
So my prayer for myself when I return is that I can learn something from “Ethiopian Scott” and find contentment in what I already have. Even more than in the stuff I have, that I can find contentment in the relationships I have. May I be more generous and willing to give even when it does come at a cost, realizing that as someone who has so much, I have a responsibility to help these who have so little.
*Speedy production of our needed document