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Never had I thought twice about the snack-cupboard that was constantly stacked full in our kitchen. Oreos, Pringles, vanilla wafers, pretzel sticks, old-fashioned potato chips, Goldfish, Ruffles, and those delicious mint girl-scout cookies, just to name a few.. Ohhhhh sweet delicious goodness. (cue mouth watering)
“MOOOOMMMMMMM….. COME ON, Ugghhhh, what the HECKKKK!? Why haven't you bought more sour cream and onion chips? I hate the plain ruffles and the old fashioned ones. There's seriously NOTHING in this house to eat!” Slams cupboard door shut. Storms away.
I can hear my voice now. My disgusting, spoiled, rude and ungrateful voice. The cupboard was FULL of snacks. All of this not even food that we necessarily needed… just snacks… extra treats we were fortunate to have. And all I could see in that cupboard full of packaged treasures… was what WASN'T.
Let's hit fast-forward a few years. I find myself in a village in South Africa, sleeping on a mattress slapped down on a dirt floor, bathing (if you can even call it that) from a plastic tub about the size of the kitchen sink in my childhood home, hand-washing my clothing, and meals most often consisting of chicken heads and/or feet. Needless to say, there were absolutely no packed full snack-cupboards in sight.
My YWAM DTS had taken me here for two months of service. I had NEVER experienced poverty like this before. Miles, upon miles of meer shacks lined the streets without a blink of hope in sight. I mean, yes, we were trying to be that hope, trying to bring light and purpose and something to live for… Although it honestly felt at times more like swimming in an ever-rising sea simply trying to keep our heads and spirits above the fierce tide of poverty. And I didn't truly realize how much it had affected me until I returned home. Never did I ever think that silly snack-cupboard would mark me for the rest of my life.
I walk back into my childhood farm-house, breathing in the scent of everything that is familiar. Ahhh, finally at home, where my heart is calm. Finally comfortable. Finally at rest. Away from the heart wrenching poverty and its effect on me... Or so I so very naively thought.
I vividly remember the exact moment walking up to that snack-cupboard… you know… the famous one we've been talking about this whole time. Swinging the doors open wide, I planned to continue my normal custom of gazing through the wall-to-wall lined shelves of snacky goodness until I found the perfect item to satisfy my craving.
But no, this time was different. I felt my breathing stop, like someone had, in that precise moment, placed the weight of an entire full-sized vehicle on my chest. I looked across the bags, packages, and boxes staring back at me as I felt my heart sink deeper and deeper and deeper. What was that feeling? That pain? Coming from a place somewhere deep within me, I felt the tears welling up as they began to spill over uncontrollably. I was crying. I was actually crying. I was standing in front of that stupid snack-cupboard, bawling like a 5 year old girl.
It took days, weeks, and months to process those tears. Why did they come? Where had they come from? And why did I struggle to even look in that direction again for the following weeks? I believe that the extreme contrast hit me harder than I had prepared myself for. Yes, I returned home to many other luxuries, but God chose to use that snack-cupboard to show me something. I was smacked in the face with my ungratefulness, my hard heart, my negative attitude, my desire for more... and more…. and more, without a second thought of how much I had already been given.
So yes Lord, you can have those sour cream and onion chips. Take them, because I recognize and see all that you've already given me, and I realize the huge blessing I have in comparison to so many others who could only dream of that infamous snack-cupboard, and the million other luxuries I am fortunate enough to have. Thank you for showing me the two extremes, and for beginning the process of loosening the nasty grip greed had taken on me. And as I go forward, please help me to never forget the lessons of gratitude you've started in me.
I will be forever grateful for the village streets of South Africa and for the Pennsylvanian snack-cupboards, and the impact I have received between the two.