Thoughts while reading City of Joy

I consider myself to be a fairly content person. The majority of the time, I’m quite happy to have a 14 yr. old car, a mis-matched assortment of borrowed and second-hand furniture, curtains straight from the 80s throughout the entire house, bathroom and kitchen decorated in the 1960s, a 22inch tube TV which requires certain amounts of “prodding” – meaning hitting – in order to get a steady picture. Usually I’m overwhelmingly grateful for the hand-me-down clothes, shoes, jackets and snowpants my kids receive from family & friends, plus delight in great finds for myself and Daniel at re-use it stores. Our entertainment isn’t “Big.” Borrowing movies and books from the library, playing board and card games, ordering pizza, and occasionally going out for ice cream are about as crazy as it gets – the latter 2 performed with a certain amount of guilt attached.

But every now and then, someone makes a remark about our archaic curtains. Someone isn’t invited to our house b/c our TV isn’t good enough to watch a movie or the game. Someone asks me when we’re planning to redecorate and remodel. Someone is wearing a really cute brand-name outfit from the current season, has a great purse and a haircut you know they spent big money on. Someone talks about the greatest vacation they’ve ever taken. Every now and then, someone asks me what I want for Christmas. And jealousy and discontentment knock on my door and storm into my thoughts uninvited… my contented state goes from quiet satisfaction to raging discontentment in about 5 seconds.

I used to think I was somewhat justified in these thoughts. We don’t go overboard with our spending, live within our means, save some money with each paycheck, have “no” debt except our mortgage… I guess now-a-days that’s no debt. We scrimp and scrap to save extra pennies & dimes by doing things most people would consider highly inconvenient, so why shouldn’t I be entitled to a little splurge – or even a really big one – every now and then. Then I started reading City of Joy by Dominique Lapierre. I won’t spoil the book’s contents for those of you who haven’t read the book, but it is the most horrific book I’ve ever read, recounting the living conditions of real people in Calcutta. I literally must brace myself each time I sit down to read; and I must admit, I’ve been finding other things to do instead of finish reading the book, such as write a blog entry about it, b/c of the turmoil I feel after each reading session. I suspect I haven’t even hit the most disturbing parts yet.

I do not know how I will deal with the turmoil this book has created for me, especially with the holidays quickly approaching and thinking about listing many of my wants and also shopping for people mostly like myself, economically speaking. In the future, I do not know how I will enjoy my splurges w/o even more guilt associated with them. I do not know what my final “call to action” will be as a result of this book. But I do know it has changed me forever, and I HOPE that from now on….

Every time I’m tempted…..
….. to complain about rising food costs, I will be Thankful I get to eat 3 meals a day, and my children are also just as well fed.
……. to complain about rising healthcare costs, I will be Thankful for the medical care my daughter receives for her vision, w/o which she might lose some of it. And I will be thankful for life saving medicines and immunizations that are readily available for me and my entire family, not to mention clean medical facilities and knowledgeable medical personnel.
…. to desire that cute outfit, purse & haircut, I will be Thankful that I have a clean, warm change of clothes for each day of the week and then some.
… to start re-designing my kitchen & bathroom in my head, I will be Thankful for the house I live in which has electricity, running water and a heating/cooling system as well.
…. to yearn for that dream vacation, I will be Thankful that I can hop in my 14 yr old car and drive in comfort to be with those I love in short order.
… to think that the person who writes on his/her Christmas list “Donate to X,Y or Z Charity” is just being self-righteous, instead I may just do it.