Living with the bare minimum


Vanessa Timat

The house that the family was living in before the one we built

Vanessa Timat, Feature Editor

Have you ever had a power shortage in your home? Or had an appliance break? Did it seem like the whole house was falling apart? Although these issues can be frustrating, they cannot compare to the lifestyle people in other countries experience.

This summer I had an amazing opportunity to go on a mission trip in Juarez, Mexico. A little back story on Juarez: it is the third most dangerous city in the world right now, it is a desert and the poverty crisis is extremely high. So, nothing special to look at right? Wrong. While I was on this trip, I really got to experience the simplicity of owning the minimum essentials. 

Along with the team I went with, I built a small, two bedroom house for a family in need. The home was for a single mother with three kids, and she was pregnant with her fourth. The house they had before was made out of wood planks and had an unfinished roof and no flooring. It was difficult to imagine a family living in those conditions.

In the neighborhood we were building in, there was a community bathroom that the people living there shared, including us workers. Every day while working, we had to use this bathroom, which had no plumbing. In order to flush, we used tin cans to pour water down the toilet to let it go through. If the residents wanted to shower, they would pour this water over their heads multiple times. The water was delivered daily by water trucks, but it was not necessarily clean water and we often found little water bugs or dirt in it. It is hard to imagine a lifestyle like this constantly, every day. 

The availability of electricity was another harsh difference. Although a lot of homes had electricity, it was extremely limited. For example, in the house we built, we installed a light and a couple outlets, but that was only getting power from one circuit outside the house. In fact, the cord generating electricity was stretched across the street to reach the electrical line that the neighborhood shared. 

The people living in Juarez had almost nothing, but they managed. They lived with the bare minimum and almost always seemed happy. Knowing that I had so much more than them made me think of what necessities you need to live versus what you want. Over half of the stuff I own is not a necessity. I learned a lot about this culture and myself by only being there for one week.

These are only some of the many differences I experienced on this trip, and it really changed my perspective a lot. I always knew about poverty and differences in culture, but this trip allowed me to actually come in contact with it, forever changing my outlook on life. There is so much to be grateful for. Minor inconveniences in America are not even comparable to the everyday life in Juarez. 

When I got back from this trip, a feeling of disgust overtook me. I was very moved by the simple necessities that other people lived with when I had a bed, bathroom, kitchen, etc. all to myself. I know now that there is so much to appreciate. And now, every time I want to complain about something minor, I think about the people in Juarez that are perfectly content with the living conditions they are in.