Luxuries We Think are Necessities (Chronicles of Belizean Adventures)

10:09 AMHeather

I don't know if you've ever read the blog, We are THAT Family, but I love a term she uses -- perspectables.  She means changing our perspectives by seeing things differently.  Through a different lens.  Through different "spectables." 

Belize has changed my perspectables.  

About so many things.  Much of which I think I will be digesting for months or years on end.  All of which I hope never loses it's potency.  I hope that I'm discovering new perspectables and fresh insight from those six days in Belize for the rest of my life.  And that I can go back to gain even more.  

Today, I shall try to sum up some of these perspectables as I present to you luxuries that we Americans tend to think are necessities.  I've said it before and I'll say it until I'm blue in the face.  We got it going on real cushy over here in 'Merica.  We moan and complain about so many things and live in a culture of discontent.  Driven by media influences and expensive marketing compaigns designed to make us feel unhappy and in need.  So we'll buy what they're selling.

Stop the crazy train, folks.  Consider these things.  

Luxuries we think are necessities.

Air conditioning.  Okay, this may be more of a Southern thing.  Because, news flash, it gets steamy 'round these parts, particularly come August.  Or rather, come May through October, generally speaking.  And we hide in our air conditioned houses and movie theaters and restaurants to escape the heat.  Or we dive into the nearest body of water.  We panic when our A/C goes out.  Desperate for a quick fix.  Believe me, I know.  My A/C once went out completely in midAugust.  The summer of 1999.  When I had a 7 month old baby.  And this mama did not rest until I'd convinced everyone in the entire chain of command at that home warranty place to send someone out ASAP and get the thing replaced.  Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned by a lack of A/C.

But, this is not a necessity.  Air conditioning is a luxury.  It's not the status quo in Belize, as electricity is so expensive.  Even though it's a balmy 80+ degrees with approximately 150% humidity.  It literally felt at times like the sauna at Moose Lake Gospel Camp.  

Yet, you acclimate.  Those kids wore undershirts every day, underneath their heavy polyester school uniforms.  And I can't recall much -- or any?--complaining from a single one about the heat or humidity.  In fact, while I was sweating away in a t-shirt and shorts at bedtime duty in the main house, the kids were climbing into their beds, wrapped under sheets, with their long sleeve pajamas.  Sure, we turned on the air conditioning for sleeping hours.  But, it was not a big deal to them.  They were not eagerly heading to the comfort of A/C like our team was.  And the amazing Rosa cooked for hours in a tiny kitchen over a hot stove with no breeze or air conditioning.  Only a tiny fan to cool her off a tad.  

Being hot and sticky won't kill you.  And amazingly, by our second or third day, it either really did get a bit cooler or we got a little used to it?

For decorative purposes only. It's not that the houses and church and buildings we entered in Belize were completely devoid of decoration.  But there wasn't much.  Simple art hung here or there or perhaps a curtain.  In other words, Belizeans don't spend hours pinning new decorating ideas on Pinterest or time or money or energy considering how to update their look. Function is the name of the game.  Things have purpose.  And guess what?  I personally think that living in that mindset gives people more purpose too.  At least that was my perspectable from being in Belize.  

The people aren't hung up on the fluff and dress-up that we apply to all things, from our clothes to our homes.  The plates and serving dishes and cups may not have come out of a Pottery Barn magazine.  But, I've never appreciated such sincere hospitality.  Knowing the hours that Rosa spent preparing the meals.  The effort it took her husband, Peto, to shop for all those groceries and get them back from the city to Hopewell.  The warmth of the people outshone the decor around them.  And I honestly couldn't have asked for more.

Maximum capacity.  I won't even tell you how many people and kids squeezed in the vans to get to church. Or how few seatbelts were actually used.  Because in Belize, there is no such thing as maximum capacity.  Fifteen passenger van?  Pa-shaw!  Squeeze 'em in till the doors won't close.  How about the idea that you can only have so many people over because that's how much seating you have?  Again, a foreign concept.  There is no such thing as maximum capacity.  That's a luxury--to cap off where people are comfortable.  You just make room.  Which leads to the next one...

...Extra square footage.  Say what?  Rooms you rarely use?  Couches that never get sat on?  One kid per bedroom?  We think these are necessities.  Gotta have that formal living room and formal dining room to use on holidays.  Gotta move because your kids can't share a room (Yes, yes indeed.  That was us...6 years ago).  But, actually, these are luxuries, y'all.  That is why 16 people live in approximately 1800 square feet?  Give or take a bit.  Yes, five boys in one room.  And six girls in the girls' bedroom.  The house parents living in a room, with their three children sleeping in a room connected to theirs.  This is normal.  Actually, from seeing the houses we passed while driving, I think the main house at Hopewell is rather spacious.  Because people live in a one room house.  Actual families live all together, in a simple and functional house.  And they don't kill each other or gripe about it.  It's just the way it is.  Because extra square footage is not a worldwide phenomenon.  It's not even the global norm.

Menu planning.  "Need some new dinner ideas!  Can you share your favorites?"  I have both been asked this and have asked this question.  Listen, the need to mix it up and have a great variety in our menu planning is a luxury.  Big time.  Because lots of cultures have a diet consisting of a few basic foods.  Every day.  Meal after meal.  Because that is what they grow and can obtain easily.  Rice and beans.  Simple breads.  Maybe eggs from chickens they raise?  Or meat from the animals they hunt or raise?  Listen, a variety of fruits and vegetables are a serious luxury.  Because they are expensive and not easy to obtain in much of the world.  

I ate some delicious meals in Belize and there was a good variety.  But the idea of choosing new recipes and then shopping for ingredients for that particular recipe is quite a luxury.  Generally speaking, I think the majority of the world functions on the philosophy of "this is what I have on hand, how else can I fix it?" 

Appearances.  I hate to admit this.  Because it sounds so shallow.  But I really had a hard time in Belize with the fact that due to the heat and the activity, I needed to not bother with my hair and to completely forget make-up.  It's hard for me to just be myself, raw and natural.  I don't know if I'm that vain or just can't shake the Texas girl mentality about never leaving the house without mascara.  But, I found myself so self-conscious about having my picture taken.  

It's not that Belizeans don't care about their appearances by any stretch of the imagination.  But I never saw such natural beauty as I did there.  Where women don't fuss for long hours fixing their hair or doing their make-up.  

And in other parts of the world, where people struggle to survive, appearances are the last of their worries.  


So the amount of effort and time we take to make ourselves look good says a lot about the luxury we enjoy.

Toys, Gadgets, and Entertainment.  Back in my day, we spent hours outside, making up games and running around.  Or, we used our imagination to occupy our time.  I didn't grow up with a variety of electronic gadgets and a ton of toys.  And I certainly don't think that our culture was quite as bent toward entertainment as it is now.  

I realized this in Belize.  Where it felt more like the olden days.  The kids played clapping games and made up other simple games.  Or read books.  Or drew pictures.  They were free of the "entertain me" mentality...they lacked the sense of entitlement that says they have a right to be entertained.  

The idea that one has time and energy to even be entertained is a luxury.  Because that means that the work can stop and the demands have an end.  It means you have dishwashers to handle your dishes and yard guys to do your yard and you can go buy your groceries at the store rather than growing or raising it yourself.  

I cringe when I consider how many electronic devices we have in our home.  For my family of five -- it's more than the 21 people who live at Hopewell.

Opportunities.  "What do you want to be when you grow up?"  That is a question we ask all the time.  Here, in America, we raise our children that they can be anything they want to be.  They can choose from a variety of occupations.  My kids can assume a college education for their future.  They can choose to do something blue collar or white collar.  They can consider a wide variety of opportunities.

This is indeed a luxury.  Because most of the world cannot assume the same variety of choices for their children.  College is a dream and certainly attainable.  But it's not something every child can just assume.  Trades or jobs are not as vast in possibilities.  And professions are not as prolific as here in the States.  

Resources are not as endless as we have, from counseling for the kids who need it, to job training for the parents who struggle.  Orthodontics and specialists for a variety of issues under the sun are not as accessible.  When you live in a rural area and gas is expensive, even the available resources within the cities are not easy to tap into.

We have no concept of the opportunities we enjoy on a daily basis that most of the world can't fathom.  From stores to doctors to programs and services to higher education.

We got it good, folks.  We got it good.

Families.  These are a luxury.  Families where parents can provide for their children and be gainfully employed and seek resources when hard times hit and they need a little extra assistance.  The simple ability to hold your family together is a luxury.  But, unlike the other things I've listed, this one should be available throughout the world.  

Curable diseases should not make orphans and make parents of older siblings.  Poverty should not mean the hard choice to release your child to someone else because your love isn't enough.  Generational cycles of brokenness should not continue to ravage families around the world, lacking the resources to know how to change them.  War should not make soldiers out of children.  Desperation should not make slaves out of people.  And government policies should not hold families hostage to the inability to make the best plans for their children.


There is so very much in a single day that we take for granted.  And this is generally speaking, no fault of our own.  We live where we do and have what we have, and that's just the undeserved privilege we enjoy because we were born where we were born.  

And we don't need to feel guilty about that. We don't need to sell all our worldly goods or feel horrible because we have been given more than we deserve.  But, I think we do have a responsibility to allow our eyes to be open.  To pray for God to break our hearts for what breaks his.  To begin to ask for eyes to see the brokenness in our very own communities for those who don't have the luxuries that we consider necessities.  To have the courage and boldness to consider it all--what we see as the norm and embrace that it's not.

And to be willing to spread the wealth.  To be willing to give of ourselves.  Our time.  And our resources to reach into the lives of others.  

To whom much is given, much is expected.

We might think we are going to teach them and make a difference for them.

But, the beautiful thing is that we are also the ones being taught.  Because they are also the difference makers.  It's all recipocral.  It's the rhythm we can seek.  The give and take.  The ebb and flow.  The blessing and being blessed.  

When luxuries and needs collide.

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