We went to visit Old Grandma over Labor Day weekend.
As usual, it was wonderful.
The temperature was somewhere around 88 in the shade on the back porch, and the humidity was so high that the air felt like fog.
Sweat streamed down my face while I lied in bed, running down my eye brows and stinging my eyeballs, jolting me from sleep.
My clothes were in a state of constant wetness, as if I’d spent the whole day exerting myself.
The thick air weighed down on our bodies like sand, thick, heavy, sweat-producing sand that made it difficult to even move.
Even Allie was sleepy and lethargic in the heat.
I wondered, right out loud, why oh why did we leave our cocoon of bought air to visit Old Grandma this weekend.
Grandma said that she didn’t know but it was pretty dumb.
While I was lying on my bed, wet from a cool shower and basking in the breeze from Old Grandma’s only fan, I realized why.
To be thankful.
Aside from a 4-month stint in an apartment in Virginia, my current home was my first with air conditioning.
I spent the first 22 summers of my life hot and sweaty, and I survived.
There was no air conditioning in the school where I taught. It was hot, and I was constantly hot and sweaty and gross.
It may be a luxury to which I am accustomed, but central air is not a necessity for survival. I survived lots of hot summer afternoons, lots of oppressively humid school days. There was never any doubt about my ability to do so.
To be thankful
When I started thinking back over my time without air conditioning, I began to think about others.
I thought about Old Grandma. She’s 83 years old and has never lived in a home with central air, has never owned a window air conditioner. She has only one box fan, and it sits in its box on the back porch except when her favorite granddaughter and her family visit.
During the Depression of her youth, Old Grandma lived in a condemned house, the only shelter her parents could afford. She’s never said, but I imagine they had no utilities. They were thankful to have a place to live; people they knew lived on the street.
I thought about Evelyn, the 5-year-old girl we sponsor through Compassion International. She lives with her pregnant mother and older brother in a one-room lean-to that is likely much less sound than the shed in my backyard. It’s her job to carry water to the house from the town’s water supply so that her mother can cook their meals.
There are plenty of times when I feel poor: we live in a modest house; we don’t often have the money to buy new toys or go out to eat. Sometimes, I question whether staying home with my girls was the right thing to do because it really put a crimp in our finances.
As I reflected on all of the people I know and all of the luxuries I consider necessary to my life, I was struck.
I am so ungrateful.
Central air is a luxury that few people enjoy. It is not necessary to live.
Cars, computers, televisions, and even microwave ovens are all luxuries. They make life easier, better, but they are in no way necessary to live.
I’m glad we left our bought air for a few days. Suffering through the heat at Old Grandma’s helped me to find a healthy dose of perspective long missing in my world.
Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich.
Be wise enough to know when to quit.
–Proverbs 23:4 (NLT)
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