I ran across this picture a few years ago of this little house in Cypress with a tiny outdoor kitchen. There is rudimentary plumbing, a sink, a gas stovetop and a few cupboards with mismatched doors. The family that lives in this house were overjoyed that they had water plumbed straight to their house for the first time and a gas stove to cook food without having to start a fire. Let me repeat for emphasis, they were overjoyed. The caption under the photo said succinctly, “Lots of people are happy with less than what you’ve got”.

That hit a nerve with me. For so may years I had been concerned with having a house or a lifestyle that looked a certain way. Why? I don’t really know. I blame advertising and consumerism for a large part. Perhaps it’s because when I was growing up we didn’t have the finances for many luxuries at all. Maybe I was trying to fill that void with what all the fancy magazines seem to promise will make you happy. Namely, with STUFF. Shiny stuff, new stuff, high tech stuff, stuff that changes every season so as to encourage you to buy even newer stuff because your slightly used stuff is no good anymore. It’s all ridiculous, of course. It’s redundant and expensive and bad for the environment to keep buying all this stuff. Especially when our old stuff works just fine. But it took that caption on that photograph to really stop me in my tracks. Of course, I thought, I am SO lucky to live the life I do, to HAVE all the things I have. It was like I had this interior monologue complaining all these years of my cup being half empty, then suddenly realizing that my cup had been half FULL the whole time. To be completely fair, my cup runneth over. I have a beautiful, loving and healthy family. That right there is enough for a lifetime of happiness. I have a home in a safe neighborhood. I have enough money to pay our bills and save for the future. Once again, that’s enough for a lifetime of happiness. The realization that literally millions of people all over the world are living happy lives with so much less than what I have was a sobering and humbling experience.

Now, every time advertising or the propaganda of our consumer oriented society starts to get to me, I think about that picture. Lots of people are happy with less than what I have.

Enough is enough.

‘Nuff said.

An example of a common home in Panama
What you cant tell from this picture is that there is a pipe attached to the rain gutters on the house next door to my vantage point. That pipe feeds into a plastic bucket. The water in that bucket is this family’s fresh water supply. Cooking, bathing and washing clothes all depends on the rainwater in that bucket. Just think about how your life would change if you had to rely on a supply of rainwater for all of those activities.
This is the entire length of this small home in Panama. One bare lightbulb for illumination and probably no more than three small rooms inside (one was a kitchen, because I could see inside the house from my location on the balcony where I took the picture). At least three people lived in this house at the time that I took the picture.

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