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A Few Loose Screws

Each time, I glared at the tiny screw (or nail) on the floor in annoyance.  My 10-month-old daughter is adept enough at ingesting every inedible thing she finds, without the additional temptation of sharp, shiny objects.  Even the endoscopy-trained physicians at our hospital would be little match for her covert reconnaissance missions.

As I picked up each offending piece of metal, I pondered where to put it.  The garbage?  No. Only "burnable" (plastic, paper) items could be taken to the incinerator. The compost? Obviously not. The ground? Burying it would be too much work. After exhausting this mental checklist, I had thrown a nail and two tiny screws into a little dish atop my dresser.

Last week, the gardener needed a nail. I thought about how I had almost buried it as I gave it to him. Oops. Today, I was trying to cover an unpainted patch on the wall (in true avant-garde fashion, the layer of paint had been applied over a taped telephone cord in the middle of the room) with a hand-me-down painting, and found the nail was too low. In cement walls, such a nail can't be moved without professional equipment and quite a bit more brawn than even my 60lb capacity (40lbs of toddler + 20 lbs of infant) biceps could muster.

I went to my neighbor's house in search of string. She had saved some from a package recently received and happily handed it over to me (CLUTCH -- we seriously have the best neighbors). I snatched the previously intrusive screws, rigged up a mid-painting suspension system (fancy points), snuck into the room where Esther was napping, and covered the eyesore patch. Victory.

And then I thought: life is so different here. I grew up in a culture of excess, where entire business operations (marketing, advertising, retail) boom by convincing people to buy both necessary and unnecessary items. We threw away at least one bag of trash per day. Here, I take my half-full, tiny garbage can up to be burned once each week. If something annoyed me in the U.S. (a half-broken, loose screw for instance), I would throw it away. I went shopping multiple times per week in stores large enough (in combination) to feed and cloth all the world's hungry and poor. Nearly every day, I saw ads for things I didn't need or even really want and thought: I should buy that [thing].

There are really no ads here, except for a few cell phone carrier logos and whatever shows up on my Kindle. I didn't realize the absent influence of entire armies of people trained to convince us to spend money until a Starbucks ad for a macchiato flashed across one of our tablets. My first thought was, "I want that drink." My second thought was, "That drink costs more than what a laborer here makes in an entire day. I should never want that drink again. Furthermore, this electronic device (one of many that we own) costs more than people here make in an entire year." Cue the execution of my self-righteous assumptions about myself and the world.

Until I moved here, people who lived on less than $2 per day were just a statistic -- all 2.8 billion of them. They were easy to forget, because I had no idea who they were. Now, they are our neighbors. I cannot forget them, because they are the reason I eat every day (in the US, it is far easier to forget the people who grow or raise our food, since we rarely see them).  More importantly, they are the reason Scripture gives us challenging words such as these:

"If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them,'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" (James 2:15-16, ESV).

The picture I hung up with those renegade screws highlights people James might have been describing. They are the people that we see each day (the people in our neighborhood, indeed). They are people I would love for everyone I love to see each day, as well, at least in their minds. Would I make different choices with my time, money, and affection, if I truly considered these people?  Would you? Could you?

I am so imperfect in the ways that I use the blessings God has given me. But by His grace, I can become wiser and more Christ-like in every way. And so can you, dear friend. So can you. We all have a few loose screws laying around, and every single one can be used with purpose.


  1. Thanks for sharing. Prayers for you and your family.

  2. Good word. We are so wasteful here. When I was in Nicaragua I saw people putting every scrap of wood to use, no matter how small. They didn't get thrown out. And clothing that became too tattered to wear became mobs and rags.

    We serve a Redemptive God and He delights to know that we find usefulness and every thing... and more importantly in every person.

    Thank you for the many ways you are sharing your journey. I am so blessed to see God at work in and through your family in these days. What a mighty God we serve! Blessings, peace and health to you all. <3 Julie

  3. Excellent post! This is a wonderful reminder of how to make do, as I myself are reflecting on the things that I can repurpose or give away from our home rather than throw them away! Continued blessings to you and your family! Barb


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