A World of Difference


As I sat in a booth at Chick-fil-A at Cleveland-Hopkins Airport at 5:30am, I glanced up to see a sign on the wall that read:

I don’t shop because I need something.
I just shop for shopping’s sake.
– Cat Deeley

I don’t know who Cat Deeley is, but as I was minutes away from boarding a plane headed for Haiti, this quote stood out to me in a BIG way.

A little about Haiti…

Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. With a population of about 11,000,000 people, nearly 60% live on less than $2 a day. And, while I’ve seen varying numbers on unemployment, it is safe to say that only about 1/3 of men and women of normal working age have a “formal” job. Although it’s difficult to prove these numbers statistically on a regular basis (these numbers are mostly from 2015, https://haitipartners.org/haiti-statistics/), through my work with COCINA in Haiti I have now seen first-hand these details in action.

So, I read a quote like the above and think, “What in the world are we doing?”

According to CNN, American shoppers spent a record $5 billion online in the 24 hours that marked Black Friday 2017. Billion with a B. In 24 hours! And that’s just online sales; it does not include sales in malls, big box stores, or other retail stores.

In one day, Americans spent more money online shopping than THREE TIMES the national budget of Haiti. 

This is not to say that my family is any different. We are going to Florida this year instead of buying any presents for our three kids (ages 12, 15, and 19) – a trade off to spend time together instead of getting them stuff they don’t really need just because it’s Christmas. At least that was the idea; it seems each day more gift-wrapped boxes appear all around our house.

Why is it that we have no trouble spending billions of dollars shopping for ourselves and others in a single day – and more than $1 trillion total (stat) over the course of the holiday season (roughly one to one-and-a-half months), and yet charitable giving throughout the entire year is only 40 percent of that number (stat)?

It’s like we don’t even pay attention.

In Richard Stearn’s awesome book, The Hole in Our Gospel, he explains it this way: (in my own words)

When a child in a third-world country dies of malnutrition, we feel sorry for that child and his family. When a child in the US dies in a school shooting, we are angry that such a thing can happen. When a child in a neighboring city dies from an overdose, we are scared it could happen to our child. When a child in my neighborhood gets cancer and dies within a few months, we are saddened and do what we can to help. But, when our own child dies in an automobile accident, we are devastated and can hardly go on.

The result was the same in each situation: a child died. But our reaction to that result changes based on our relation or connection with that child. It’s sounds harsh, but a child in some country thousands of miles away is just another kid; MY child is different; when MY child hurts, I hurt.

The problem is…we are selfish.

If we weren’t selfish, we would be spending $1 trillion to help impoverished nations escape poverty.

If we weren’t selfish, we wouldn’t worry about the type of car we drive or the clothes we wear; we would give away everything we had other than the basics we need to survive.

If we weren’t selfish, nonprofit organizations would have to turn away donations of time and money.

If we weren’t selfish, EVERY child in Haiti (and every other country in the world) would have access to food, healthcare, and education.

Now, you’re either feeling angry or guilty.

Either you’re saying to yourself, “Dang, he’s right. I am selfish. Ugh…I should return that thing I bought this morning.” Or you’re saying, “I work for what I have and deserve the things I have; who is this guy to say I’m selfish?”

Whether you agree or not, it’s true. Sorry. To some degree, we are ALL selfish. We can justify, make excuses, argue all we want, but when it comes down to it, we choose self. Now, granted, we also all have moments of selflessness, but generally, we tend toward selfishness.

So, what now?

The short answer…donate to COCINA. Just kidding! (Well, sort of!!)

Seriously, though, we can’t change the fact that we are flawed human beings who would prefer self-preservation over self-sacrifice. It’s in our nature. But, what we CAN do is take steps to be “less selfish” and start moving outside of our comfort zone.

That could mean any number of things:

  1. Let someone “cut in” when lanes are merging on the highway.
  2. Do something nice for someone without them knowing.
  3. Send a note of encouragement to someone who needs it.
  4. Pay attention when people are talking to you (put your phone down!).
  5. Buy someone else’s lunch instead of, or in addition to, your own.
  6. Volunteer.
  7. Say a prayer for the neighbor you don’t get along with.
  8. Find a charitable organization (it doesn’t have to be this one) to support with your time and money.
  9. Go through your closet and give away the stuff you haven’t worn in a year.
  10. Smile more.

I started out telling the story about seeing that sign on the wall that said, “I don’t shop because I need something. I just shop for shopping’s sake.” For that entire week while I was in Haiti, that quote stuck in my head and I went back and forth about what that truly meant.

It came down to this: I am selfish. We are all selfish. But, I (and we) can do something about it. We can do what we can, with what we have, where we are. (Theodore Roosevelt)

We can’t beat ourselves up for being human. We can’t expect to be perfectly selfless. We can’t judge others for their selfishness.

We just have to do what we can, with what we have, where we are.

God does the rest.



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