The day after I arrived in the US from nearly a month in Tanzania, I was helping my 3-year-old twin granddaughters brush their teeth before bed. My daughter said, “Wait a minute, let me get my phone, they use an app.” Sure enough, the little darlings get to choose a colorful character to brush their teeth along with accompanied by catchy music and a timer. This is not really shocking, it is fun, right? But a few days ago I was teaching young children how to make a toothbrush out of a small stick. This was not news to the children, they said (in Swahili), “Of course!”
The next day we went to Whole Foods to get a few things for dinner. I have been to Whole Foods before, but not after recently experiencing the chaos and challenge of an African market.
At Whole Foods, I was dazzled by the variety of food, products, and people. Not only are there multiple choices for every item, there is a diversity of humankind at this store in Brooklyn, NY that had me staring. I realized the only diversity in our African town was provided by me and some of my co-workers. Otherwise, everyone looked much the same, and completely opposite from us.
As I followed my daughter around the store, one of the twins in my cart, I thought, “Heaven will be like this, with every tribe and every nation.” Really even right down to the abundance and variety of foods and other products, because I believe Heaven will be a place of plenty, minus the Whole Foods prices.
When you travel back and forth between worlds, there has to be a period of cognitive dissonance as you assimilate all the realities. The struggle for me is to make it less of a judgment and more just internally incorporating the differences that co-exist in time and space. My life in Africa was such a contrast that I find myself looking at my U.S. life as one of self-indulgent uselessness. Yesterday I went to Target and Starbucks, both bastions of Western life. Is that wrong?
I need to live responsibly and with contentment wherever I am, rather in plenty or in want. But I don’t want to lose the tension of the struggle. I have been given the privilege of experiencing some of the complexity that is life on Earth. I want to treasure those times and let them make me richer in love and more compassionate.
While I’m drinking Starbucks.