Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Groceries - deadline 8-23-12 10 am NY time (08/16/12)
TITLE: Just Makes You Think, Doesn't It?
By Hiram Claudio
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Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Here in the United States, we’re so accustomed to entering just about any neighborhood supermarket and being greeted with aisles of options. We have this expectation that we’ll not only find everything we’re looking for but also a variety of brands from which to choose. Shelves will be fully stocked with items to satisfy every palette, every taste, and every cultural need. And if they’re not, we’ll simply go to another store that’s close by.
Or … do we ever think about the idea that prices on things will remain the same from the time we enter the market to the time we checkout? After all, it’s unthinkable to enter a store and put a gallon of milk in your basket that costs $3.00, yet by the time you reach the checkout line … it’s now $3.75. Many would consider this scenario as not only farfetched but completely unacceptable.
Which brings me back to the “what if” question. Can we really visualize the image of walking into a supermarket and finding it almost barren except for a few items? Can we grasp the picture of strolling up and down aisles that are … empty? Or that idea of the price changing by the time we reach the cashier?
I too had difficulty grasping any of these concepts … until recently. A month ago I returned from a short term mission effort in Zimbabwe. While there primarily as a teacher and speaker, I also took time to interact with people and observe a nation that, quite honestly, has seen better days. As in many African nations, poverty there was widespread. As I listened to people tell me what they’d experienced in recent years, it was difficult to embrace the scenes being painted.
One woman told me of finally getting enough money to buy milk, bread, and cereal for her children … only to get to a market that only had a few boxes of cereal left. She recounted her feeling at the time … “But the milk was there yesterday!” I could sense the combination of frustration and despair, especially since the next nearest market was too far away. Or one man working extra hours to get the amount needed to buy diapers, finding them in the store, and then by the time he reached the cashier … he no longer had enough. He described feeling good about being able to get what his child needed to only then feel inadequate and unable to provide … all within the span of a few meters. I was sobered by these accounts to say the least.
In conversations like these, I’d expect to encounter sadness, frustration, and even despair. And to be truthful, I did. But what impressed me most was not once did I detect bitterness. It would be understandable for people chronically placed in situations like these to become angry. And it would be no surprise for that anger, if unchecked for an extended time, to turn into bitterness. But that’s not what I found.
The people of Zimbabwe, while human and far from perfect, are among the most optimistic and hopeful I’ve ever met. They don’t blame God for the circumstances their nation has endured, and in some cases continues to face. They thanked the Lord that … it wasn’t worse. One man told me, “It could have been worse.” I asked him, “How?” He said … “Well, with all the sickness and disease that was everywhere, worse would’ve been me not being here to tell you this story. Thank God I’m here!” I did. They provided me such an amazing visual message of unwavering trust in the Lord. They possessed a defiant devotion to the Master that had been tested and … had prevailed. I can only hope I gave them as much as I received.
And now, as I walk through a local supermarket, my mind can easily travel back to our brothers and sisters in Zimbabwe. Comparatively, things are better for them now. The stores I walked through while there were stocked in ways that mirrored what I find here in New York. But I wonder how different a perspective I’d have, how forever changed I might be, if walking through a grocery store summoned up personal memories like those.
Just makes you think, doesn’t it?
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