Travelling to different cultures is a wonderful experience, but what you see when you get there can be a challenge to your own values back home. Just before Christmas four of us visited my son and his wife in the Philippines where life was so different to our Scottish homeland. "Don't embarrass the other guests by buying something expensive, 100 pesos (approx.£1.40) will be ample," was the advice we were given, when shopping for a gift to a party we were to attend.
On Christmas day back home in Scotland my grand children unpacked their presents from 'Santa'. What a contrast! The wrapping paper alone cost more than the presents I had seen in the Philippines. Of course in third world countries as well as in the western world, poverty and affluence can live side by side, each one never touching the other. However as I watched my granddaughter totally amused with a piece of fancy string, and ignoring the presents, I could not help questioning how this fits in with the call of Christ to love others as we love ourselves.
It is not reasonable to expect people of one culture to live by the standards of another. Yet when we consider the teachings of the bible, do we not find there are two totally different cultures which span all races, colours and people groups of the world. One is the culture of righteousness, joy and peace in the Holy Ghost, while the other is of evil and wickedness. The challenge is how do we balance the old adage of "being in the world but not of it." How do we pass values of moderation to the generations following as they are faced with the challenge of peer pressure?
As a 57-year-old grandfather I am delighted when I find a £5 pair of trainers that look the same as a pair of Nike's at £55. However through life's experiences I have learned to deal (for myself) with that kind of pressure. Nevertheless I realise only too well, the kind of peer pressure that affects our offspring when they themselves are 'labelled' because their clothes may be good, but do not have the accepted nametags.
Poverty is sometimes referred to as abject poverty and relative poverty. One definition of relative poverty is when a person cannot afford to live at the standard that is the accepted norm by the people of the community they live in. Obviously this presents a different standard in different situations and places. However the pressures can be as high for a child not having the right tags on their clothes here as it is for those living with much less in a poorer culture.
I realise that I have not got the answers. Although I have made different sacrifices in my life as a result of my faith, I would not like to witness my grandchildren experiencing the cruelty that I have seen children inflict on one another because they do not have the right gear, or comply with the standards they set.
On our trip, no words could express the joy we saw in children or capture the atmosphere as the children were given the clothes that we had brought. It was wild! The workers were as excited as the children, clothes were strewn everywhere as they frantically tried on garments until they got something they were pleased with. Strangely, no one quarrelled or fought about a garment another child had! In the end each child had a beaming smile as they paraded around in their new clothes, and shoes.
There are things in both cultures that are good and wholesome, however one is aware that it is only when you experience these things that you have a real understanding of the inequality that exists. Due to the exchange rate, a little in western money values can do so much for people in a third world country, and even this presented a challenge as to being wise in a situation where you are surrounded by multiple genuine, and sometimes not genuine needs.