This morning I was counting my blessings as I thought about the desperate situations I witnessed everyday in Kitale. The list of things I have to be thankful for could go on for days. Things like a home, food, a bed, family, parents, access to medical care, a job, clean clothes, a toothbrush and toothpaste, showers, electricity, shoes, clean drinking water, schooling and opportunities for success.
I'll admit that I often find myself thinking about the ease of life here in America. Yes, that's coming from someone with a middle class upbringing whose parents have worked hard to provide for their family, but let's consider the overall welfare of our country verses underdeveloped, poverty-stricken countries such as Kenya. In America it is possible to - as the famous saying goes - pull yourself up by your bootstraps and pursue the American Dream of transforming your life from rags to riches. That sort of transformation is unheard of in many places. How does someone who has no resources, capital or education pull themselves up by their bootstraps? It's really difficult when you don't have anyone pushing you along, offering advice or providing a helping hand. Something much harder to find in African than in America. They've got to depend on someone to stumble across their potential and find investing in their life worthwhile. Something hard to find since people who live in poverty tend to come in contact only with others living in poverty. Praise the Lord for people and organizations who work hard to help these people everyday!
As I think about these things, I realize over and over again what a blessing my parents have been. The mere option and ability for my parents to save and invest their money is something most parents in Kenya can't fathom. Over the course of my life, my mother and father have consciously reserved money for my future. Whether it was putting money into a savings fund, buying stock and bonds, purchasing life insurance or investing their money in other endeavors, they have always sought out ways to set money aside for needs that arise later in life. Saving money isn't really something I've ever considered a blessing, but after a conversation I had with a friend I know without a doubt that it is.
I stopped to chat with John just as I did most days. I love John. John has a gentle spirit that greets me with joyful excitement. He has such a precious heart and always thanks me for remembering him that day- a big reminder that even giving people the smallest attention can make them feel loved, appreciated and valued. Quickly after greeting John, I found myself engulfed in a conversation about money and finances- a rather abnormal topic of conversation for the two of us. I knew John, despite having a full-time job that keeps him working well over 70 hours a week, only made 150 shillings ($2 US Dollars) during his nearly 11 hours workday. Although abundantly thankful for his steady income, John shamefully disclosed his troubles about his inability to save any portion of his income. An inability that hasn't come from his lack of desire or efforts, but simply from his need for survival. How will he ever be able to save money when he barely makes enough to keep his family alive? The current food crisis taking place in Kenya has increased the price of ugali (the cheapest and most filling food available) to 140 shillings a bag- the amount needed to feed his family for just one day. That leaves him with 10 shillings (a whopping 12 cents) a day to pay rent, buy firewood, provide medical care, pay school fees (school in Kenya technically isn't free and no money means no school), mend or buy clothes, purchase bathing soap or laundry soap and pay the costs of other needs that arise. It's true things are cheaper in Kenya, but they aren't that cheap. There is no way he'll be able to provide the basic necessities for his family and certainly no way he can afford to set money aside for a savings fund.
Although he desperately longs to invest in his children's future, John really doesn't have that option. He literally has barely enough money to feed his family today. Can we even imagine that? I've lived among and become friends with people who face this reality everyday and I know that I will never be able to understand such desperation. It makes me so thankful for everything that I have, that my parents have been saving their entire lives and that they've been able to invest in my future. I'm thankful that I've been able to attend school and graduate from university without debt and without using any of the money I've earned and worked to save. Because of God's blessings and their hard work, I have been given stepping stones into a bright future. I pray that my life reflects a sense of gratefulness for all that I have and that I always remember to praise God for everything he does in and for me.
So thank you Lord for my family's ability to save. Thank you so much.