Simple

I am too busy to put something up today so I thought I would leave you with a story I wrote in 1999.

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Two years ago when my family moved to the Midwest, we did so in search of a “simpler” life. After burning the candles at both ends, we felt it was time to slow down. We wanted to have the time to stop and smell the roses, and to enjoy the “simple” things in life. I thought I knew what those “simple” things were until we met Boone during a mountain trek while in Thailand.

Boone was 33 years old then. Gracious and quiet, he used to be a sustenance farmer. In his village he eked out a meager living cultivating rice and growing vegetables. His was a simple life, yet Boone wanted more. He wanted more than to just sustain himself, he wanted to have some money set aside for a rainy day. So Boone gave up farming and he dedicated his life to learning how to speak English in an effort to improve his life. Now he leads jungle treks for foreign tourists who pay a lot of money to forget their busy lives and experience the “simple life” of the hill tribe people in Northern Thailand.

I got to know Boone very well on our two day trek and I think he got to know me better than he wanted to as he carried my pack for most of the trek. I would like to say that I lead the group due to Boone’s pack carrying generosity. I can’t. He carried my pack in hopes that I would arrive at the remote village sometime within the same week as the others in the group. Going straight up mountains and then straight down did terrible things to my knees and by the end of the day I was beginning to think that knee replacement surgery sounded like fun; if it involved being evaced out by helicopter.

That night while sitting around the campfire in the thatched roof village, Boone and I discussed his former “simple” way of life. I asked him about the concerns that idealistic academics have expressed about the hill people losing their culture and their “simple” ways of life due to the lure of money from Westerners.

“They think we have a “simple” life,” said Boone. “Those people should try to live such a life. What is “simple” about trying to keep your children fed on a daily basis? What is “simple” about having no money for clothes or to send your child to school? What is simple about watching a loved one die because you cannot afford proper medical care?” Boone told me that everyone wants a better life, a color TV and a satellite dish so they can learn about and discover the world in an effort to improve theirs.

Early the next morning when the rooster sounded the alarm, as I lay on the grass floor, every muscle in spasm, I contemplated my “simpler” life. Money could not buy me a cool breeze when I desperately needed it on the top of that mountain. It could not stop my heart from racing nor quell an aching thirst. Yet, money was able to buy me something else. Understanding. An understanding of why people risk life and limb to come to the United States or other nations in search of a “simpler” life. Never again will I just listen to the put-downs of those who criticize our new citizens who haven’t yet learned their new language. Because for them getting here was the battle. The language is just a minor skirmish.

Isn’t it ironic that wile the people of the so-called “third world” are attempting to “simplify” their lives many of us in the states are attempting to do so, only from the opposite end of the spectrum. In truth, maybe simplifying is really just letting go of old beliefs, allowing new possibilities to enter our lives and stopping to smell the roses. Or maybe, it’s as Boone said. Maybe it’s as “simple” as a new color TV, satellite dish and a little money saved for a rainy day.

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One thought on “Simple

  1. I love this.
    Years ago I went to Venda, northern part of South Africa, very rural. There are quite a few very famous African artists who come from the area. I remember going to visit them in their homes. They still choose to live in very simple mud huts. They have chosen the simple life. I thought I had a lot to learn.

    Like

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