Contentment on the Streets

 I sat down and grabbed my laptop to find the perfect 42″ flat screen 1080P HDTV to replace my old 27″ TV when I ran across a post by Jonathan Brink entitled Perspective on my stuff.

Jonathan ends the post with this “Because a chair is simply a chair isn’t it? But when I don’t have a chair and I need one, everything looks good. But when I have several chairs, only the cherry stained one’s from Pottery Barn will do.”

I started asking myself … At what times in my life have I been the most content with the amount of my material possessions? The surprising answer is when I had the least. Also I don’t think it is coincidental that those were also the times I had the least amount of media exposure.

In 1995 I set out for California with a couple bags and a big cardboard box full of stuff, with in a couple of months I ended up on the streets of San Jose with nothing more than the clothes on my back.  I won’t go into detail about all the weird and drug soaked circumstances that led me there, but eventually I ended up in the Haight Asbury district of San Francisco surrounded by a community of other people who had as little as I did.

Over the next few months I hitch hiked up and down the coast, and all the way over to New Mexico for the Rainbow Gathering, then back to California. I lost the little bit of stuff I had more than once, and rarely had more than five dollars in my pocket. Yet I was content The funny thing is that during the time of my life that I had the least not only was I the most content with what I had. I was the most generous.

Rarely was a sandwich eaten that wasn’t shared, If we only had one cigarette it was passed around no matter how many of us there was. If you had two shirts and your brother or sister had none, you would give them one of yours. If some one was in need of food more than you, you gave up your share with out a thought. It just struck me that it was a lot like the early church. (If you leave out all the drugs, tie-dyes, and dreadlocks)

Another thing about my time on the road is that I rarely watched television or listened to the radio. I wasn’t bombarded with images & voices telling me that if I wanted to be happy, I need to buy what they had to sell. Even when I did watch TV, the barrage of ads didn’t persuade me because I had a community of people around me who valued me, not because of what I owned, but as a fellow human being, and sojourner.

Why is it that the people I knew on the road were less materialistic, more generous and content than your average middle class Christian?

What can the church do to create a sense of community similar to the one I experienced on the road?


Father, help me to realize that my value is not found in what I have, but in my identity as a child loved by you. Help me to be less materialistic, and held me to be more generous with what you have blessed me with, not just my finances, but with my every fiber of my being. Help me to remember that I don’t need a flat screen TV, when millions will go to sleep this night with empty stomachs. Help me to care less about my own needs. Give me a heart that cares for the needs of others.  AMEN


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