I parked the car at the construction bazaar near our house. I clutched my phone where I had made my list. I was focused. I was unstoppable. My black coat was zipped and my signature checkered hat was pulled low. I was prepared to argue in the local language over prices if I had to. I wasn’t going to let people push me around because I was the stupid American.
In route to the entrance of the bazaar, I walked past a long row of cars, and the sound of one of them arrested my attention. Chug, chug, chug. Apparently the motor didn’t want to be bothered with turning over.
In that moment, something shifted inside me. The reality of the plight of nearly every single person around me suddenly reached out and slapped me in the face.
“Oh, great God,” I prayed, “please let that car start.”
I felt the anxiety of the person sitting in the driver’s seat. He didn’t have an extra 5,000 soms lying around to fix his starter. And he didn’t have an ATM card with access to a foreign bank account from which he could draw such a sum. His livelihood may be at stake.
By God’s good grace, the motor begrudgingly roared to life.
Whereas I go to the bazaar to buy things to beautify my already beautiful house, these people go there to buy truck loads of bricks to continue to build their houses. When I hit a large rock and busted the oil pan of our car on a trip up to the mountains a few weeks ago, it was an inconvenience. We had to wait two hours for the tow truck, and in the end, we were out some $150 (parts, labor, and tow truck combined). Had that happened to someone here, it would have been catastrophic. They’d have to go in debt equal to the amount of a month’s wages and live in fear of how they were going to repay it.
It was good for me to adjust my attitude as I walked into the bazaar. Just a little more humble. Just a little less entitled. Just a little bit more willing to extend grace, even to the grumpy, unhelpful bazaar sellers. They’re just trying to get by the best they can with what they have. And they don’t have much.
I found all the items on my list that day at the bazaar. And I still have plans to carry out all my beautification projects. But I’m different. I’m more thankful. All I have is a free gift. Every last bit of what I have is pure, unmerited grace.
There is something unimaginably freeing about true, heartfelt thankfulness for what you have. Whatever you have.