I’m not scared of Walmart, even though I’ve been told for at least 13 months that I would be upon arriving back in America after a worldwide adventure. I’ve been twice – once late at night and once in the morning – and had a gimp buggy both times (for anyone north of the Mason Dixon line or west of the Mississippi, please note that “buggy” is the affectionate Southern name for a shopping cart).
Walmart didn’t do it. Neither did the eight flavors of Skittles and seventeen colors of M&Ms at the CVS counter or how many drink options the QT has waiting for me at every turn of the road.
Before coming home I referred to coming home as “getting back to the real world,” but in all actuality…America isn’t the real world. It’s not even close! In the past 12 days I’ve identified three things about life in America that I just don’t understand (and for the most part don’t WANT to understand).
The first has been the concept of “me.” I’ve run into several circumstances, whether driving through Atlanta on I-75 or in conversation with a friend, where I’ve been faced with an “every man for himself” mentality. Y’all, I just don’t get this. Perhaps living and functioning with a team for eleven months changed my mind, or perhaps it’s the simple idea that God calls us to put others first. (I’m sure we’re all familiar with the J.O.Y. acronym – Jesus, Others, Yourself.) I’m no saint, to be sure, but it blows my mind how selfish American society is as a whole. There is such a defensive mentality circulating amongst us – everyone is out to hurt us, mock us, destroy us, and tarnish the image society sees of us. Friends, it is not so! And even if it were true, in whom do we place our trust? Surely not ourselves or this ambiguous “society” we find ourselves seeking approval from! Yet we operate out of fear, greed, and desperation in order to make ourselves look good and make sure we are taken care of in any given situation. Me first. Mine.
The second idea that I’ve been struggling with is consumerism and materialism. I’m a huge fan of new clothes, especially after wearing the same outfits for eleven months (with only a few added layers of variation occasionally), but my goodness I don’t need an endless supply! I also don’t need to save every piece of paper or every memorable gift (nor do I need to give them all away). It’s a matter of moderation and “can someone else benefit from this now?” I still want to buy so many new dresses and things from Loft or fill my life with new office supplies and keep things “just in case I need them,” but is it really necessary?
Finally, I’ve been overcome by how focused we are on money. I know that’s nothing new. We all need jobs to pay bills and buy food. It’s a normal part of life, but I’m running into a big problem. It’s so hard to get a job to make money without having experience, but it’s nearly impossible to get experience without having a job. Living “debt free” is best, but not having credit leaves one without the ability to get an apartment or car without having money, and then we’re back to square one. American society is ruthless compared to the rest of the world (granted, I wasn’t entering the job market in other countries).
In a recent interview I was asked why I am okay with taking a part-time job right now instead of pursuing a full-time position elsewhere. This was my answer: I know money is important – I have loans to pay off and monthly bills/needs – but money doesn’t come first. I want to be where God wants me – in the one place where I can bring the most glory to Him and make His kingdom known in the best way possible.
Y’all, I scared myself sitting there when those words came out. Mentally I said, “WHAT?!” I’ve seen God work in miraculous ways – I was able to attend an independent school with a tuition of at least 30K/year and walked away with less than one year’s tuition in loans. I just spent an entire year living out of a backpack and helping people without making an income at all. If that’s not miraculous in the financial department, I don’t know what is. BUT – I still don’t operate like God’s going to make it all work. I usually try to plan and budget my way into “just getting by” mode, but y’all, I’m tired of that. It’s time to step out and say, “I’m in it for the Kingdom” and be done with all the extra anxiety. I don’t know why I haven’t done that before.
It’s scary, but I swam with sharks once.