Monday, March 23, 2009

Life Lessons from Jacare

Yesterday in marriage class, I taught a lesson on Financial Bliss in Marriage.

Yes, I put those two words in the same sentence: Financial. Bliss.

The thing is, most Brazilians don't really need a lesson on money management. They should be teaching us. They have very clear ideas on the difference between NEED and WANT. (Something Americans struggle with in excess of ridiculousness.)

Here's a typical Brazilian neighborhood in my area:
These are not favelas. These are not slums. These are semi-nice houses where good people live. (Though plenty of good people live in slums, too.) I have lots of friends who live in houses just like these.

Meet one family. This is a family that My Man baptized years ago (he probably won't admit how many years ago.) We went to visit them.

They have three rooms in the house - not BEDrooms. Rooms. As in, living room, kitchen, bedroom. Oh, and a bathroom, sorry. (And there are five kids - one is not pictured. So all five kids AND the parents share a room.)

They don't have a microwave. Or a phone. Or a washing machine. Or a table. Or chairs. When they served us lunch, we - as the guests - sat on the couch while the family sat on the floor.

And I have been in much more humble houses than this one. Entire residences that, I'm willing to bet, would fit in your living room. Without a couch or a stove or a fridge or even a shower. Houses with one room - a bed, a kitchen sink with a camp stove, and a toilet in the corner. There's one young woman in our ward who has to wash dishes at a neighbor's house - there is no running water in hers.
And ya know what? These people are happy.

They don't have much, but they have each other. And what's more, they don't have the headaches and stress that debt cause. A lot don't even have a bank account.

In Brazil, they buy ONLY what they can afford. Many build their own houses (something I realize is next to impossible in the States, but bear with me.) First they build a little brick room. The whole family crams in there and saves, saves, saves. Soon they have enough to pay for caulking on the walls. Then maybe a nice ceiling. Then they add on another room. Maybe a floor. And so on and so forth - paying for everything with cash.

So it frustrates me when I hear Americans complain about the crisis - yet still have their cable, cell phones, fast food and three cars. You think you CAN'T LIVE without a dishwasher? Guess what. You can.

It just. Isn't. Neccessary.

44 comments:

Megan said...

Amen my sista.

4handfulls said...

This a a great reminder to what we consider NEEDS and WANTS.

Head Nurse or Patient- you be the judge said...

Sister Sheri Dew spoke at a women's conference about her experiences traveling for the General R.S Presidency and the statement she made about these sisters she met around the globe- they have literally nothing BUT a testimony and joy, while in America, we have- by comparison- everything BUT a testimony and joy. That has stuck with me for over 10 years. I needed this reminder. Thank you.

Kristi said...

Amen, Amen, and AMEN! Thank you for this post -you put it all beautifully!
Also - Head Nurse, I love that statement. So sad, and often so true!

rad6 said...

Ok, our washer (clothes) broke this week and I am feeling distraught. I so needed to read this. The world would be much better off if we all lived a little more simple wouldn't it.??

templework said...

((HUGS)) Thank you for taking the time to share with us!

Abra said...

And there you go. Thank you :)

gigi said...

I know how blessed we are but our children sure don't and It's going to be a reude awakining for a lot of folks, sad to say. Thanks for this very timely reminder.

Kimberly said...

Wow. Beautifully said!

Korbi said...

I love that you posted this. I lived in Guatemala a while back and I was so happy to learn of the simple happy life. I was so happy, all the time, my floors were dirt, my shower was freezing, (it never worked a whole lot) half the time I was bathing in a barrel of water, and I was so happy! Now I get all irrate if my washer overflows... imagine that. Ha!

Erin said...

Thank you for this sweet post! Money does NOT equal happiness.

LisAway said...

My sister experienced some pretty serious culture shock when she returned home after her mission in Brazil. When they got to our house she just cried and cried. Because WHY!?! Why on Earth did we need all this Stuff? It hurt her pretty badly. I feel tearful just thinking about it.

Thanks for a great post full of truth! (Yours are like that a lot, I'm noticing. . .)

Kim (Davis) Loudon said...

I have been sick about this for some time. I think of how NICE our little apartment in Brazil was....compared to the Brazilian houses we visited while visiting Eric's mission. However, Instead of being thankful, I chose to compare our little apartment to all the American's homes...the families that were bringing in HUGE amounts of dough. Although, my HEART wants a simple things and a simplified life, I can't SHUT off that CONSUMER brainwashed brain of mine that wants bigger and better and MORE. Such a dichotomy... ALL the time. I TRULY am happier when I listen to my heart.

Melanie J said...

Wow. Way to put things in perspective. Thank you!

Lara said...

Thank you. Every blogger I've read today has had the amazing ability to touch on something I desperately needed to hear.

janae said...

Someone already stole what I was going to say. But I'll say it anyway.

Amen, Sista.

Bonnie said...

Sometimes I just want to sell everything I have and move into the mountains and live off the land. Or the jungle like the the Swiss family. The simplicity would be much less stressful. Thanks for this post!

Boy Mom said...

Love it! I was released from my calling so got to go to this lesson in my ward yesterday with my Husband.

Happiness is the something you choose not something you acquire.

Lady of Perpetual Chaos said...

That is so true, and yet hard to live. I find myself feeling guilty every time we buy/do anything because we have so much more than most and yet, compared to the average American family, we're pretty simple. It's such a hard balance to find.

Susan said...

Wow, I wish they would print this on the front of our Washington Post here! (I'm LisaAway's bawling sister.)

I think that what I saw in Brazil has carried over for me. We have had people visit us and tell us how we should so have a bigger TV, better this, more that. Luckily it doesn't get through very quickly, though slowly we do upgrade, and purchase stuff we don't "need."

Thanks for a great post!

Jennie said...

I tried to sit here and read this to my husband and oldest son, I didn't make it- I am all choked up and teary eyed. This is a lesson I want my kids to learn, be grateful for all the blessings we have.

Kazzy said...

Such an important reminder. Thanks so much.

SO said...

Are you sure about that?

TOTALLY kidding!!!!!! Totally. Thanks for this post. It's something I really needed to be reminded of.

Debbie said...

We have a small church group that meets weekly and we discussed this very thing last night. Without so much distraction, you can see God and can be happy!

gina said...

I think about this topic often. Thank you for this, I am going to share it with my kiddos.

Real Mom, Real Life said...

Isn't it funny how we justify our wants as needs. I can give you 103 reasons why I NEED a cell phone, or cable, or a dishwasher or... the list goes on and on. What you say is 100% right on. But that doesn't mean I don't feel a little pang inside my head at the thought of giving up any of those wants.

Such an important reminder. Really, once our basic survival needs are met, what do we really need except each other.

Sometimes I tell hubby we just need to move to the mountains and just live off the land. Away from any electricty. Then I come to my senses... plus if we did that we would miss out on getting to know all sorts of crazy new people who may or may not move into our area!

elesa said...

Thanks for the reminder. I always feel like it would be easier to live more humbly if I moved out of the country. I know it isn't true, but I think it sometimes anyway.

Stephanie said...

i agree...and I am guilty as charged. But I will say that i have been trying to simplify my life for a while now. When something alters your life the way it did mine, your opinoin on a LOT of things change. But I KNOW that coming to Brazil will change a lot for me. I will learn this lesson and I know that I too will be happy to be with the ones I love :)

The Motherboard said...

I couldn't agree more! What a wonderful post! I loved that quote from one of your commenters from Sheri Dew... profound!

Lisa S said...

Love this post. Gladly, because our mortgage is only 932.00, we live in 900 square feet with two teenage girls, and one bathroom. Yes there are times when I want a second bathroom. but in a couple years they will both be gone. Oh and we have no cable, or microwave and only I have a cell. No call waiting or caller id, no answering machine. I'm not beholden to someone's desire to talk to me right now.

3 Bay B Chicks said...

Powerful words from one of the most powerfully minded bloggers I know.

A wonderful post, a wonderful reminder. Thank you.

-Francesca

KC Mom said...

You are so right. I really needed this.

Barbaloot said...

But I really do NEED that 48th pair of shoes, and the new work-out video I saw on TV, and that new movie. I NEED them!! Or not...

txmommy said...

yep, we are blessed with an excess of riches that I wonder if it's really a blessing or not. I guess it's a responsibility~ to use it well.
Thanks for that post.

Tiffany said...

I love this post. It makes me want to move to Chile (where my husband served on his mission) and just live life and get away from the commercialism and "need for stuff" in America for awhile. Don't get me wrong, I love America...but there's something about people that live in more humble circumstances...we really have a lot to learn from them.

Lori - Blondie in Brazil said...

Just found your blog through my google alerts. A great read that I found really interesting. I think the issue of choosing between needs and wants is highly dependant on where you live in the country.

I have learned to live with less regarding convenience, but I don't think many of the people in the city we live in (Maringa-PR) are any less materialistic than US Americans. Everyone has to have Nike Shox, there are quite a few iPods floating around and I see imported cars here that I never imagined could be afforded in this country.

Again, I think it is highly dependant on where you are living, but personally I wouldn't consider all Brazilians to be living with less or caring about having less. Looking forward to catching up on your blog.

Lori said...

Thanks for the reminder!

MNM: Mangum Family said...

Amen! My hubby and I were just talking about this the other day...members recieving assistance from the church, but not making sacrifices, like cable, manicures, etc. IT's all about pride!

This is one of the very things my hubby loves most about Brazil! Life is much simpler, and happier!

jess said...

and isn't it amazing that despite not having much, they would give you their last food from the fridge or their only shirt if they thought you needed it!! I truly learned what "charity" was while serving my mission in Brasil.. Thank you for the reminder of what is truly important!

Lorraine said...

I always felt like Brazil was either very RICH or very poor. Fortunetly when I was there, I got to stay in a very rich area and I do have to agree with one of the other commenters, that ALL Brazilians don't live the simple life. Many of the people I associated with were WAY more into having "THINGS" than most Americans I know.

That having been said, while I was there, I also got to visit with my brother who was on a mission at the same time. Then I got to see a little bit of the other side of Brazil. Wow! What a DRASTIC difference. I too, absolutely LOVED the sweet generous people of Brazil, for the most part. I love them all, and want to go back some day.

I was originally going to start this comment by say, "But I really DO NEED my dishwasher" and then I thought, but wait a minute.... I now have 4 kids!!! Why would I need a dishwasher!!!! :) Just kidding! Oh man, but it sure would be hard to live with out.

I really enjoyed your post.

Shawn said...

I think that it is easier to not want things if you have never had anything. Its when you keep getting more and more and then you start to feel like you NEED more and more...

It is hard to go back to where you started. Its refreshing to hear about these amazing people---what a lesson to learn.

Roblynn and Rebekah said...

I have to agree with your blog. I think everyone should try and spend at least one year living in another country, just to get another view of how we as Americans live and waste. Here in Costa Rica they are quickly catching up with the Western mentality, but 60% of the people living here have never even been in a bank. Definately a different mentality. Thanks for the reminder!

Shelley said...

You are a great inspiration to many. Thanks for the post.

Bethany said...

What a wonderful reminder for us all- thank you!