Let’s begin with a bit of context.
Several months ago my partner and I began our 7th year together.
Historically speaking, Sara has been the risk-taking half of our relationship. Working for decades in international disaster response, she directed Habitat for Humanity’s rebuilding effort after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and later their response to the 2010 earthquake that nearly leveled Port-au-Prince.
I taught writing at the University of Kentucky until Sara received an assignment that moved us to Vietnam in 2009. Since then I’ve created art, launched this personal blog, began a memoir, and started writing for The Huffington Post. I’ve been our stay-at-home half, the one wanting consistency and craving predictability.
I’ve been the boring off-brand to Sara’s high-end adventure.
In the more recent past, however, Sara has begun to rub off on me, and some of these patterns have shifted.
I suppose it began with our move to Vietnam, subsequent relocation to Haiti, and most recent return to the US. Having lived abroad, I’ve found it challenging to be at home again for any significant length of time. I hate how easy it is to forget. I hate that I have only distant and fading memory of post-earthquake Haiti—the newly homeless tented and tarped across the hillsides of Port-au-Prince.
It’s too easy to become comfortable and lapse into a complacency that takes privilege for granted. In America, we whine when it’s too cold outside. We complain when a grocery store doesn’t stock the brand of bacon or napkins we prefer. All too often, we’re pampered by convenience, sometimes even spoiled by ready-made and pre-packaged. Assuming the biggest and best are owed to us, we’re, not only content to take it easy, but we also develop a sense of entitlement that most of the developing world hasn’t.
I, too, am guilty of this. It’s nearly impossible to live cloistered in the middle of America and not be.
In the US, we’re insulated by oceans on either side, reap the benefits of Canadian wealth to the north, and complain when the poor from Mexico cross our southern border in search of a living wage. We are the sometimes spoiled younger sibling of a, now, global family. Why should we adopt the Kyoto protocol if it requires sacrifice on our part? Do we care enough that climate change impacts the poorest of poor more that it does us? Those people and places are far removed from our experience, one that’s defined more by cable TV and video games than hunger, poverty, disease, or need.
There’s nothing wrong with episodes of “Modern Family,” for example, but when we watch games like “Survivor” on “reality” television, because we don’t know the real experience of struggle—it seems to me we’ve gone too far. It seems, at least to me, that something fundamental is amiss. You only have to read or see The Hunger Games to understand that utopia too quickly collapses in dystopian nightmare. How far is “Survivor” from the game Katniss is forced to play?
Our American inclination to reduce survival to televised game-paying seems obscene to me–especially in light of the actual agony lived by so many mothers who struggle to feed their family even one meager meal a day.
Sometimes I still think about Haiti during the rainy season, the night-time torrents of wet, the damp dark that soaks the soul of a person—
I think about a mother, holding her baby, in a make shift tent—barely a tarp over a mud slick floor—
I think of that mother.
I realize I’ve got to change the lie I live–the double standard that says I care but then does nothing or not enough.
Sara and I simply don’t want to live this way any longer.
We want to know the world the way it really is–for most people. (Unfortunately, poverty is a global norm.)
This choice, this challenge, this elbow-deep digging in soil and sweat, isn’t the life for everyone, but it’s the right life for us–and one the US has given us the privilege to choose. Unlike so much of the world, we, at least, have the education and income to make a choice. So wish us well–
–and pray for us–if you’re a praying kind of person– as we attempt to alter our interactions with the world, to change, not just our attitudes but our actions, as well–
–living what we value and behaving as we believe.
Are you as guilty as I am—spoiled by the benefits of living in a wealthy country? Do you always live your values—behave as you believe?
Stay tuned next time for the reasons we’ve chosen Cuenca, Ecuador as our specific destination.
Again, please forgive my being an absentee reader of your posts. I am spending every spare minute preparing our house for the market. Things should return to normal once we are moved and settled. I will be blogging from Ecuador. I’m committed to that! Love and miss all of you!