Getting out of your normal surroundings and visiting places that are totally different does interesting things to the way you think.
Where we live in Canberra is pretty much upper middle class white-bread sort of stuff. Al and I are both professionals and so we tend to work and socialise with people who are like us. We live in a nice house and drive relatively new cars. It’s a complex and busy life most of the time. This is normal for us and many of the people we hang out with. We live in a cocoon. Not that we did it on purpose, I think it’s human nature….we tend to be drawn to people who share the same values and outlook in life when we’re not concentrating on building a diverse circle of friends and acquaintances.
Don’t get me wrong, we are super grateful for our lives, we work hard for what we have, and we appreciate what God has provided. It’s just that we were delivered a slap in the head when we went on holidays a little while ago. I don’t know about you, but I tend to forget that there are people who don’t live the same way I do. Yes I know…there are pictures on the news all the time…but to be honest there’s a sort of disconnect there a lot of the time…do you feel it too? It doesn’t seem real.
When we were driving through all those little outback towns of Queensland and NSW in the last couple of weeks I saw lots and lots of broken down, tiny little cottages that were in desperate need of a coat of paint and some new windows. There were people living in those cottages. They had old cars (lots of them usually). The dogs running around in their yards were skinny and hungry looking. The contents of the shops in the small towns was pitiful, and everyday grocery items cost a ridiculous amount of money. These people appeared to lead simple lives. I was asking myself how they survived and at the same time promising myself that I would never live in a small town.
Al has the enviable gift of being able to talk to anyone. It’s something that comes naturally to him. For me, it’s something I have to work on, and it causes me all sorts of grief when I try it :). From time to time on our trip we’d stop in these small towns along our journey and Al would inevitably end up talking to one of the locals or a Grey Nomad we’d meet along the way. I’d listen in, occasionally make a contribution to the conversation, but ALWAYS I’d come away thinking…wow they were nice! And so normal and “together”. I’ve got no idea what I was expecting…perhaps some down-trodden, tired, angry person. They were anything but. (I know I sound like a condescending twit, hence the whole experience being a slap upside the head)
Getting out of my comfortable little cocoon has shown me some much needed perspective and reminded me of how comfortable my life really is. It has made me look outside myself and take the time to empathise with other people’s plights (no that does not come naturally…you have to work at it) and help where I can if need be. Perspective. It has also shown me that a complex and busy life with a nice house and nice car is not necessarily any better for me and my family than a simple existence might be. I swear those country folk have a better outlook on life and a more balanced lifestyle than a lot of my city friends. Paradox.
My takeaway from this experience is this…I need to broaden my friendship base. I need to simplify my life so that I’ve got time for those things that really matter. I need to purposefully be aware of the needs of other people. I need to stop being a condescending twit (no matter if it is in my head and you don’t see it….God does) and see people the way God sees people. We are all planted where we are in our uniqueness for His purpose…it’s not for me to judge that.