Friday, April 13, 2012

perched on stilts at the ocean's edge

Inday comes from a home like these,
 perched on stilts at the ocean's edge, 
sandwiched together in close community.  

 Before dawn each morning the fathers and the big brothers paddle their double-outriggers out to sea where they fish and dive, returning back home with food for their families along with pearls and edibles to sell. Mothers and big sisters search for shellfish on the tidal flats, care for their home, sell used clothing at the market, and weave intricate mats. The young children run the city streets barefoot, expectantly requesting a bit of food or a peso from everyone they meet.  

Afternoons find the fathers strolling the wharves to vend the family-harvested pearls, or building boats for their own use and for sale, repairing nets, and resting from the morning's work, sharing stories with friends who gather to relax. Come evening, young and old drink a soothing cup of coffee and retire early, falling asleep on woven mats, ready to rise before dawn again the next day.

But for Inday it’s different.  She makes a friend who helps her to get an education. Inday is accepted to college and studies dental hygiene.  She mixes with others, makes her way, finds a job and begins a new career, a more prosperous and hopeful life in the flurry of the city.

Not long afterward, the friend contacts Inday only to find that she has left it all.  The work, the city, the new lifestyle.  She has gone back to her home like this one, perched on stilts at the ocean's edge.  She is back with her family, in her community.  “It’s easier here,”  Inday says.  

Easier?  With a tin roof and worn out clothes and no steady income or running water? Easier?  With a local reputation for poverty, uneducated laborers for neighbors, and no hope of advancement or a better life?  


How could it be easier to be poor?  

Maybe my definition of poverty is too narrow.  Is poverty a gnawing hunger for food, never having enough to eat?  Is it sleeping on a cold dirt floor, or living under the dark shadow of a bridge?  Is it being clothed in worn out clothing, grown ragged with wear?

Or does being poor mean a hollow unmet hunger for relationship?  Or sleeping in a perfectly decorated house where hearts have grown cold, living under the dark shadow of loneliness?  Or is poverty wearing the latest fashions masking a spirit clothed in ragged weariness with it all?  

Two kinds of poverty. It’s hard to decide which one is more debilitating.

Maybe if true wealth is not entirely defined by the possessions we own, but also by connection to the family we love, by relationship with others who understand us and care about us,  then yes, living in a home like Inday’s, perched on stilts along the ocean’s edge could truly be better than alienation by affluence.
Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, 
for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
Luke 12:15

*thanks to J for his insights on Inday's culture


Barbara said...

Yes, as I began to read this, I found myself longing for exactly that lifestyle. The demands of professions tend to remove us from home and hearth all too often. All my life I've longed for exactly what you describe here.

--An American nurse

Choate Family said...

It's all about relationship! Well said, friend.

Laura Hultstrom said...

Beautifully written!!!

Kay said...

Very thought provoking. Looks like another article to be published! ;)

us5 said...

i see you living out these relationships in ways that speak such grace, Joanna!

us5 said...

thanks, friend! ♥

us5 said...

hi Barbara. yes, in ways the relationships sound wonderful, but in ways i'm still so programmed into the consumer-mad culture. God knows i need lots of work in focusing more on people around me.

us5 said...

everyone needs such a supportive friend! thanks, Kay. ♥