Twenty Five Dollars Plus Shipping

My soul is restless.
I struggle with being in this world, but not of it.
I want to not be tied down to stuff and things.
But it’s not easy.
I love pretty things.
I love to create things.
I love to have things.
But in my heart, I know there’s more hiding in less.

Recently in my Facebook feed, I saw the picture of a young Ethiopian boy.
Thirteen years old.
Raising a family.
His family.
Not his whole family, mind you.
Just the boy and his 4 younger siblings.
No mother, no father.
And he wants to be a doctor.
Oh, how that makes my heart ache.
In so, so many ways.
(For the good and the bad.
Because there is always both.)

Directly beneath the post of Jabril and his siblings, there is another link.
This one for the pre-sale of Christmas pajamas.
$25 (plus shipping) for one pair of pajamas.

And it just hit me hard.
Like knock-the-wind-out-of-you hard.

Here is this boy, this little boy.
Living in a mud house with dirt floors.
And we are spending $30 on pajamas.
I myself just spent $90 on a bag.
A bag!
It’s a nice bag and not just any bag.
And it has a purpose.
And I got a really, really good deal on it.
And it is one of those classic items that will last a long time.
But ultimately it is still a bag.

See how easy it was for me to justify spending nearly a hundred dollars?
I am tied to things.
And I’m guessing you may be, too.

But I am realizing the thing I (should) want most is for something to change.
Something within me, something within you.
I’m not suggesting we all sell everything we have.
I’m not planning on getting rid of my car or not buying birthday presents for the children.
I don’t even know what I really am suggesting.
I just know that my heart is heavy.
My heart is heavy for the thousands of Jabrils across the world.
For the single fathers in Detroit.
And the fatherless and motherless in Ethiopia.
For the grandparents in Texas raising their children’s children.
And the little girls in China, waiting to be wanted, to be loved.
I feel the ache in my in-most being, where words can’t be found.

And yet even with that, my heart soars for these same people, with them.
Because in them I see hope, joy, dreams.
They don’t have a lot of things but they certainly have something.

I struggle to find words to go with my thoughts.
I want to support others without being condescending or falling into the savior syndrome trap.
I want to be encouraging and generous.
I want to be kind and giving and helpful.
And I want to teach my children to give and love and help.
But it’s hard.
Especially when I want to go out to eat again.
Or when I really, really want a new dress.
Or when I ‘need’ new shoes.

Where’s the line?
The one between stuff and simplicity?
How much want is too much?
How many things are too many?
I still believe that there’s nothing wrong with having nice things –
As long as there is a balance between keeping and giving.
Now if I could just find that balance, that’d be great.


For $30 per child, you can have picture perfect pjs on Christmas morning.
Or you could help another child to grow, to learn, to prosper.
For $28, give books to a Georgia child for a year via The Ferst Foundation.
For only $20 buy a gaggle of geese for a family in China through Heifer International.
Or give a child in Liberia the gift of education through the Balama Development Alliance.

6 Responses to Twenty Five Dollars Plus Shipping
  1. Punkinmama
    July 17, 2012 | 8:47 am

    This post is exactly what I’ve been struggling with for some time. And I can’t figure out the line either. And it baffles me when I see so much excess all around me. And it hurts when I feel the pull towards ‘stuff’. I’m not sure I’ll ever figure it all out, but I hope I can instill in Sam the joy of giving and make that a part of who he always is.

  2. Scott Ford
    July 17, 2012 | 9:09 am

    Great post! Thank you for sharing. I’ve wrestled with this for years. A few book ideas:

    Rich Christians in An Age of Hunger: Moving from Affluence to Generosity, by Ron Sider
    Material World: A Global Family Portrait, by Peter Menzel, et al (mostly photos)
    Women in the Material World, by Faith D’Aluisio & Peter Menzel (mostly photos)
    Live It Up! How to Create a Life You Can Love, by Tom Sine

    Sine writes, “We’ve been sold the North American dream with a little Jesus overlay.”

  3. Newby
    July 17, 2012 | 9:10 am

    Well said, my friend (as usual). I frequently find myself saying, “I work 36 hours a week–I deserve this [insert ‘stuff’]”. But really, do I?

  4. Tara
    July 17, 2012 | 9:21 am

    My biggest struggle with this was my second wedding–a six-figure event–and I was working with refugee women who had next to nothing. It was hard, very hard. My mother-in-law, and Husband to an extent, has taught me to pay it forward. Yes, we can have nice things for ourselves, but we can also pass nice things to others in need (we took a suitcase full of baby clothes to Nigeria this last time). My mother-in-law gives away tons of (nice) stuff all the time, and she still buys very nice things for herself. I still struggle with the buying of things, knowing that others have so much less, but then I think about all the things I (have) give(n) away. Maybe this is just another sorry justification for things, but I also believe we have other less tangible talents to help people. (I have a feeling this comment is coming out all wrong…sorry.)

  5. Jessica Jackson
    July 17, 2012 | 2:00 pm

    I, too, have these thoughts and struggle with these issues. I’ve been really praying about this over the last 6 months to a year, and spending more time really determining if I need to make a change in my life. I don’t have the answers, haven’t figured it out, and have not been perfect by any stretch in how we use our resources. But, I’m finding that the weeks when I can focus on God – through true quiet time in prayer and reading His word, and I can have the perspective that He is first, as is His will for my life, I worry about it less. Maybe I buy less stuff those weeks, or maybe I give away more. Maybe I don’t. I do know that I feel better about whatever I am doing and feel more confident about how I am using the blessings He’s given me, since my choices are more likely to be covered in prayer. It’s a fine line, because I believe we can worry ourselves silly about all the stuff we have in America, and miss out on the blessings and opportunities to bless others, because we’ve made our possessions an “idol” in our life, by putting too much importance on what *we* are doing (or not doing) with our stuff. At the same time, I get the same twinge of guilt when I hear the statistics from the Congo after I’ve just bought 3 smocked dresses (on a good deal) for $100.

  6. Mitzi
    July 17, 2012 | 5:02 pm

    I think we all struggle with this but you put it so heartwarmingly and it touches all of us. If anyone makes a donation to The Ferst Foundation please put “Jones County” in the memo line or whatever county you are in so that the donations goes directly to children in your county.