There were a lot of great comments to my self-sufficiency post, and I also got emails from some family members; I guess they just haven’t grasped the self-exhibitionism of the internet yet. But they really made me think, and their examples of self-reliance are something I want to emulate; something I especially need to emulate, because they are the people to whom I turn for monetary assistance as needed. If I take their money to help me, then I must also take the lessons they have taught. I also want to learn from them because they are happy in their self-reliance. I want that happiness for myself and my family.
My parents will be glad to know (maybe) that I mixed up my first batch of powdered milk yesterday. I mixed it with regular milk, and only fed it to the kids, but, still, it’s a step in the right direction. I also made homemade refried beans for dinner, but that is something I like a lot anyway, so maybe it doesn’t count as sacrificial use of my store of pinto beans.
My father-in-law thinks there is really something to the detrimental effect our self-perception has on our ability to gauge reality. He is an awesome example of someone who has overcome a weakness and steadily, day-by-day, faced reality. My mother-in-law is the most generous person I know. She is also a modest person. Let me just say that I am taking her example to heart.
I was born while my parents were in medical school; they joined the Navy to pay for school, and were still very poor. My parents lived in a mobile home for four years. They bought kidney because it is a nutrient-rich and cheap form of meat. As I recall, the story goes that they couldn’t stand the taste so they fed it to me. Thanks! My mom still shops at thrift stores and finds amazing things. I don’t know why I ever thought I could spend more freely than my parents do (and did). What was I thinking?
My “rich” parents wash out their disposable plastic water bottles and use them over and over until they are squashed and sunbleached beyond all recognition. The last time I was home my dad was washing them (he’s not always able to help with dishes, so I was impressed to see him doing this). He said maybe it was time to stop washing them; I agreed, after all, I buy new water bottles and just fill them up about 2-3 times and then chuck ‘em (this way they’re kind of like disposable contacts; you re-use them, but not enough to have to actually wash them). But my dad, who makes a good living, followed my mom’s habit of being super-frugal.
So, I need to fix my perception of what I have and what I need to be happy. I’m making a list of everything I have that the Zabaleen in Al Mokattam do not have. Al Mokattam is “garbage city” on the outskirts of Cairo. It smells; it’s a garbage dump. The Zabaleen, Coptic Christians, gather the trash, sort the trash, recycle the trash, and live next to (or on) the trash.
A USAID report concluded that many of them would not leave their home/city even if they could because their families are in garbage city and they would not leave them. Obviously, I can learn a lot from these people. Another interesting point about them is that there are tons of beggars in Egypt. Giving alms to the poor is a tenet of Islam and is very open (which is a good thing). But when I visited garbage city, the children did not cluster around me asking for pounds.
Now, why should I compare myself to the poorest of the poor? I honestly do not think that I would be happy living as they are, because it is so foreign to what I am used to (and because I want better for my children of course). I hope that if I were put in their position (or taken to a concentration camp or some other awful thing) that I could learn to be happy or at least not miserable all the time, but it is impossible for me to contemplate right now. However, I think that an examination and enumeration of all that I do have (that I take for granted) will help me to alter my perception of reality.