We put on our rubber boots and showered ourselves in deet. We were gonna take a trek in the jungle surrounding our village, led by the village leader – our new friend, Walter. It was the day before the well-drilling in the village. So we packed some water and headed out, following our guide into the deep green of the Amazon rain forest.
What followed was 2 hours of some amazing sights, sounds and tastes. Walter would stop along the way, look at what appeared to us as a random root or branch, and then explain through a translator what it was all about and how it could help anyone in the jungle and world. We saw Cat’s Claw; 6 different kinds of fruits; a vine that naturally holds water; and many different animals and bugs and plants.
Once again I was struck with the wealth of this experience and this man and his village. I was reminded with how much I trust in the supermarket and other retailers to provide for my needs…and even though it offers me convenience and I can go down and buy (assuming I have the money) anything I want or “need”, perhaps we have lost the power and awe of the sacrifice involved in hunting and gathering for our survival. And here was this man who could just walk into the rain forest and identify every branch, leaf, root, fruit, etc. and know exactly what it was for and how it could best help anyone. All the “hunting” and “gathering” I know how to do involves a 15-minute drive down to Safeway, filling up my shopping cart, then getting annoyed cuz I have to wait in line to pay for my “catch”, and then driving home. Sheesh!
What society calls “wealth” and “success” can many times be deceiving, and someone with all the conveniences and “stuff” in the world can still find themselves in the greatest poverty of all. As Mother Teresa put it:
“Loneliness and feeling unwanted is the greatest poverty of all.”
And when we look at most advertisements, they try to promise an answer to the emptiness we struggle with. If we could only buy this product, then we would finally be fulfilled and happy. Just check out the following images taken from advertisements and look for the underlying longing of the human race portrayed:
These images are proof that we all long for something deeper, and the advertisement specialists are trying to tap into that longing and get our hopes up that maybe this product will help deliver a morsel of what we ache for. Whether it be connection, or to be seen as beautiful, or to be regarded as smart, or to please people around us and prove to them our significance and value… Yet so many times we can find ourselves stuck in a poverty of debt, or shallow living, or loneliness caused from having to protect all our brand new stuff. Or we find ourselves trapped in the cycle of needing to buy more and more as the products become old and the “high” of a new item wears off, and so we find ourselves shopping, trying to feed that inner addiction and longing. But what if we already have what we’re looking for? Wealth is truly available for every single person on this planet – but it may mean laying down a plank or two of our impoverished walls of greed so that we can partake in the riches of love and community and grace. It may mean listening to the underlying longing of each advertisement, and then answering that longing with the real deal: To stop chasing mirages and realize that maybe the answer to complete happiness and fulfillment has already been given to us by God. That “simple” things are truly profound. The paradox is that we can lose that inner peace, happiness and love when we begin to believe the lie that we must sell ourselves in order to capture the things which we already contain within us. To identify this truth and be free from the false promises of advertisements, and to live purely and happily and freely with no attachment to “stuff”, this is what it means to be truly wealthy!