Saturday, December 23, 2006

2006 Lesson No. 10 - Of Money and Materialism

My travels to Hong Kong, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia this year made me realise how materialistic I can be and how fortunate I am to be living in Singapore.

It started off with the HK trip and continued with the Bangkok trip. They were both great holidays. But it was the aftermath that made me wonder whether I was too much of a shopaholic. Granted I had saved a lot and worked at Pearson to fund myself for both trips. Plus I rationalized that the shopping clumped in those 2 trips alone was less than spending $100/month worth of shopping spread out in the entire year.

I felt the pinch more because my former employer delayed my pay check for 2 months, which meant I was seriously in debt for 2 months. And because of that, I had to live at the mercy of my parents who nagged no end. I deserved it though.

The money spent could have been better channelled to the church building fund, people who do not even have enough food to eat, let alone clothes to wear. And here I was adding more variations to a closet that's already too full. But lest you think I'm going to swing to the other extreme and be a hermit and adopt an austere lifestyle, I've come to realise that's not the solution. Whatever God has given, is a blessing. It's good to enjoy life. But, I've since learnt self-control. Before I go on shopping trips, like the recent one to KL, I don't overbuy. Set aside enough to reward myself, and save enough for more fruitful stuff like mission trips.

The KL trip showed me that Singapore is really blessed. I don't know why God would choose to bless us with a good geographical location that's safe from tsunamis, typhoons, earthquakes, etcs. I came back half a day later than planned, because the Malaysian train service was disrupted due to the floods in Johor. At first, I got a kick out the delay. How often can we say, "oh, my plans were disrupted because of a flood?"

While it's a novelty to me, I realised that it's a stark reality to many others. The ride home in the coach with plush red seats and air-conditioning was very comfortable. Too comfortable infact, to be peering out of the bus window to see this:

trees half-submerged, rivers bursting out of their seams, houses flooded, villagers rallying to push a car. I just read in the newspaper today that 60,000 people have been displaced in Johor because of the floods. 4 people have also died because of it. And while some of my friends thank God for great drainage systems in Singapore, it breaks my heart to be there and see that though the waters are shiny on the surface, a lot more lies beneath the calm.

I've also been realising slowly that I am too much of a pampered city girl. While we city folks can often laugh about how we would never survive on a camping trip out in the wilderness with no proper plumbing for any more than 2 days, I guess we often forget that these camping trips are a choice and not a lifestyle. The exco social action game at Anntic (VCF's Annual Teach-in Camp) made me realise the hard way that many of us (soon-to-be graduates) are going to be living a rather easy life.

By the second game station, I (a lowly Indian construction worker) soon realised that those 14 Bible verses that I spent 45 minutes memorising was only going to earn me a measely $5, while a high-flying graduate would only need to memorise 2 verses and be paid a whopping $800 for that. I whined to YanChang that it was unfair, and he was kind and let me work in installments (i.e memorise 3 verses at a shot).

In real life, I know that many would not be able to meet such nice employers. Although it was only a game, it brought home the message very hard to me that there are many others in society who slave and sweat so much, only to earn a few measely dollars. While many of us would be able to work in comfy air-con offices, and although we can gripe about the stress the work brings (which is very real), we would never know what it feels like to work so hard, only to receive $360 a month, with no time for entertainment and other luxuries.

I will always remember that day during the recent exams very vividly, when I was watching an episode of 7Swords on SCV. My dad told me to turn around, to see the Indian cleaner standing at our gate, looking on. 20 minutes later, as the credits ran, he was still standing there. And the sight of him broke my heart. There I was, sitting on my over-squashed but nevertheless still comfy sofa, watching my HK serial, while the cleaner had to stand outside and peer on.

I think when I start work, I need to remember these images and use money wisely for the glory of God's kingdom. With this lesson, I've got few answers but many questions.


damienqiuwenjie said...


I chuckled to myself at '..Some of my friends thank God for great drainage systems in Singapore..'.

But precisely my point- like torrential rain in Singapore and the worst is a few broken down cars and trapped pets?

Singaporeans have it too easy.

bethia speaks the truth in love said...

hey ade,
guess wad? i have been checking ur blog out consistently. cant seem to get enough of it. that's always some nuggets of truth awaiting me. it's really not difficult to identify with the things u shared(esp this post). yup i learnt that i can blessed others too with whatever that i have been blessed with. simple truth yet not always carried out. anyways, it's nice to have someone whom i can look up to. rock on n shine on!

purplecross said...

hullo bethia! one of my fellow shopaholics;) I'm glad this post blessed you.

dear damien. Yes, I was referring to you. haha. was contemplating cross-refrencing to you, but I figured you'd be sharp enough to recognise your own words. heh.