Mary Bernard: A cup of cat’s spit

A couple of days ago, my kids and I played a game called “You Gotta Be Kidding!” We took turns answering absurd questions about what we’d rather do — drink a cup of cat’s spit or something else disgusting I can’t recall right now, eat a garter snake or five slugs, eat gum from under the seat at the movie theater or a half-eaten hamburger out of the garbage at McDonalds.  At that last question, all of my kids eyes became as big as quarters – a half eaten McDonalds burger? Of course! They would pay big money to have the privilege to eat such a thing.

I’m not sure why we as a family idolize certain things in America that we miss, such as McDonalds burgers, chicken nuggets and fries, or Krispy Kreme Donuts, or driving on a clean, uncrowded street. Skittles, Hershey bars… the list could go on. We went home for a month last summer and enjoyed all of those things. But in the end, the longing and anticipation did not meet up with the reality. What is it about us humans that we are never quite content with what is in front of us?

I’m doing a Bible study on the book of James right now and this quote hit me hard: “All of us, no matter how much we have, desire something we don’t.”

It seems like perhaps there is more contentment in the developing countries I have been to than in my home country of America, the land of abundance. There are too many things assaulting us in America every day, trying to breed discontent. I need that candy bar, that car, that smart phone to be content. Then we get the thing, are excited for a few minutes, hours, or days, but the feeling of discontent comes quickly back as our mind seeks the next high of indulgence.

Little girl at CURE waiting to get her cleft lip fixed.

 

Girl with osteogenesis imperfecta who will have her legs straightened.

 

Here in Ethiopia, one of the most common words used, next to ishy (OK) and Egzabier yimesgan (God be praised),  is beka, whic means “enough”! The concept of “enough” is very ingrained into the Ethiopian culture. They really don’t overeat, in general, and eat only a bite of chocolate or candy or dessert when offered. They are happy to leave food on their plate when they are full, which surprised me at first, given the general scarcity of food here. Their coffee cups hold about two ounces of fluid. That’s it – and it’s enough. They are very content to just have enough. Overindulgence is not normal. I want to learn this! I want my kids to learn this! I want to be content with just enough. What a gift it would be to have this contentment and stop from eating another bite of something I don’t need, or buying another thing I don’t need or thinking about the next new thing, rather than be content with what I already have.

A lovely young girl with a club foot – one already repaired and soooooo excited to have the other made straight. In the west, this condition would be fixed shortly after birth.

Scenes like this – a teenager coming to have her feet fixed – so she can finally run and jump and play and learn with other kids her age – make it much easier for me to feel content with the innumerable blessings I already have.

Originally posted at: http://ethiopia.thebernards.org/2012/11/10/a-cup-of-cats-spit/.

Photo of the Mary Bernard

About the Author:

Mary Bernard is an anesthesiologist and the Medical Director of CURE Ethiopia. Her husband, Christopher, is philosophy professor serving in Ethiopia with SIM. They have four children.

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