I watched a movie called Central Station and I cried. This is a story about a relationship between a materialistic lady and a young boy whose mom just died, together they search for the boy’s father. The movie depicts the reality of the poor in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil yet it lavishly provides life richness to its viewers. At least to me. Through the movie, I realized a lesson that has been unconsciously ingrained in me since I was a kid.
My dad came from a destitute farmer family. He was the oldest among seven kids. He spent his childhood waking up at four in the morning to feed pigs, providing waters for the family from the riverbank, walking one hour walk to get school with bare feet only to sleep in class because of fatigue. When he was a teenager, he set off on a journey to another island in Indonesia. He stayed with a family who gave him shelter and food; Dad gave them his energy and devotion in return. Dad always recounted this story to teach his kids about perseverance, suffering, and hard work. After years of that perseverance and hard work, Dad became a police officer. He married Mom and brought the rest family gradually to Jambi town to have a better life. I still remember a day back in my childhood when my mom had to sell bottles to make some money and how we had to portion out our food so we could still eat for the next two days. Though we had no material benefits, Mom taught us how to be content in any circumstances. From Mom, I’ve learned that the joy of life is not depending on temporary tangible things but on our contentment in the Lord.
In Bandung –a different town from my parents’— my neighbor was an old couple who lived in a tiny house with dirt floor. The wife sells food at their house and her husband gets money only if someone needs him to fix a roof or clean up the dumpsters. To them, life is a simple thing. They believe that as long as they can eat three times a day, there’s no need to worry. I love listening to their stories. The wife is friendly and talkative. She always gave me something to drink and sometimes before I left she would grasp my hands to hand over food in a plastic bag. Every Lebaran (the biggest religious festival in Islam), I put money in an envelope and handed it to them. The wife would be so emotional, her eyes shimmered with tears when I cupped the envelope in her hands.
In human relationships, I’ve been witnessing over and over the real value that goes beyond things or indulgences. It is a matter of being a harbinger of God’s love. My Mom has taught me immensely about this: will others sense God when you are around? More often, I readily sense God’s love in the state of destituteness and brokenness. Not in prosperity nor a triumph.