Gerry Proctor reflects on a visit he recently took to India and the generosity that was shown to him there. He explains that we must share the burden of the developing world extending the same generosity.
“Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ“. Galatians 6.2 (NRSV)
Recently I had the good fortune to spend four weeks in India. It was a joy to share in the lives of the mostly rural people who welcomed me into their communities. The generous and extraordinary reception afforded me at every stage of my journey was simply wonderful. Wonderful because it was so genuine, spontaneous and deeply rooted in their different cultures. Simple because these people had very little but, from the little they had, they willingly and joyfully shared everything they could with me.
The idea of a campaign to ‘live simply’ could only emerge in our developed world. The poor of the developing world have no choice in the matter, since economic circumstances force ‘simple living’ upon them. Their paucity of resources, however, is not reflected in the generous, abundant gestures of welcome and hospitality that define people who are poor, in whatever part of the world they live. People who are poor are the very first to live simply, to live sustainably and to live in solidarity with others who are poor. Among the tribal Santal people of West Bengal I experienced this reality at first hand. In the village of Chetrapahar I witnessed how the Christian gospel had brought about significant changes precisely in these areas as people embraced the Small Christian Community project of Krishnagar Diocese.
I saw changes in simple living, which promotes and facilitates the sharing that leads to real relationships between people, thus forging a genuine community spirit. I observed changes in sustainable living, as in the monthly gathering of the community they reflect in the light of the gospel on all issues connected with how they live their lives together and agree to actions that will bring about change and improvement. And I witnessed how they act in solidarity with people who are poor, each family giving just a few rupees that will be used to buy emergency medication, or to assist with the education of a very poor family, or to buy rice for someone in great need.
When we in the North accept the livesimply challenge we are only being asked to emulate the example of how the poor themselves live. By choosing a simpler lifestyle we are connecting not only across the miles with peoples from all over the globe who live this way day after day, but also across the generations as we reach back into history and touch again the lives of those first Christian disciples who lived so simply that there was no one in need among them (Acts 4. 34).
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