The temperature dropped to the mid 20’s here in the DC region today, with the wind chill factor registering in the teens. Brrrr. Biting cold. The heater in my house rarely gets over 64 degrees on cold days like this. As I pack for a Summer Christmas in South Africa with daughter Steph, I find the irony amusing.
Note: For those who don’t know, my daughter Steph works with the Bethany House counseling school children who are victims of trauma. The stories the children tell her keep Steph awake at night. Part of our journey to South Africa is to encourage and uplift her, so that she can pour out her heart to the children who are hurting — damaged by unspeakable abuse and heart-breaking life experiences.
Here is a excerpt from Steph’s blog
Now, let’s talk about our airline-imposed travel constraints:
Jet Blue allows one bag for the DC to NYC leg of the trip. South African Airways allows two.
Here’s what I need to take with me:
- Steph’s summer clothes (she didn’t have room to take down with her in July which is winter in South Africa),
- gifts and goodies for the children of Bethany House,
- Steph’s Birthday gifts (she turns 25 next week),
- Christmas gifts for both daughters, and …last but not least…
- my clothes.
Basically, I’m faced with an over-constrained equation. The only way to make this work –remove variables. Meaning, my clothes!
I spent yesterday trying on summer clothes in an EXTREMELY chilly house in my effort to edit down to the bare essentials for three weeks in Africa.
This little packing exercise got me thinking.
- What about our space pioneers who pack for six month on Space Station — especially if travel means tucking three humans into a Russian Soyuz spacecraft? What do you take? What do you leave behind on Earth?
- What was it like for early American pioneers leaving behind family treasures to load up a westward-bound covered wagon for the nine-month journey across mountain passes to uncertainty on the other side?
- What about families who left Europe to start a new future across the ocean in the Americas?
- What about refugees who flee violence or poverty or drought in countries around the world today?
The shacktowns in and around Johannesburg are filled with families who left everything behind to build a better life in South Africa. Take Portia, for instance….
My buddy Mike Boon introduced us to Portia last time we visited South Africa. Portia lives in a one room tin shack outside Johannesburg. She welcomed us into her home. No electricity. No plumbing. No running water. (The orange containers in the doorway are for transporting water, which she has to do every day.)
Yes, I’m spoiled. We live in a land of excess. I’m ashamed to admit my struggle over what NOT to take with me for a three-week trip.
Perhaps I should take a cue from the birds who fly south for the winter: Take nothing, find food and necessities along the way.
Matthew 6:26 comes to mind:
Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
Last word: After hearing my tale of woe today, Adam and Ben of Jess3 called Jet Blue and discovered I can take an extra bag for only $30. I know. I know. I could have checked myself. Somehow that never made it to my to-do list. Now, I get to decide if it’s worth it to repack and add back my “excess” things.
So, do I fly south like a bird, or like an American?
At least I have a choice.