By Maria Chiarenza
If you were told you had to leave your home and could only take three things, what would you take? While this may seem unlikely to happen to you, it is happening all around the world to thousands of people every day. We see it on the news. People are forced to flee their homes, their family, all that they know, to save their lives.
It was the morning after we had arrived. Our senior class had traveled down to Houston, Texas for mission week. Before we began training with Reach the World Next Door, we had to participate in a “loss” simulation. We were given several pieces of paper to write down things that were precious to us--family and friends, treasures, hobbies. When we finished, we walked outside to begin the simulation. We had to pick three cards to get rid of, things we would choose to leave behind. I was torn. What should I pick!? I thought I’d never be able to pick. After what seemed like forever, I reluctantly chose three cards, ripped them up, and tossed them aside. It was hard to have to make an immediate decision about what to leave behind. We all stood stunned for a moment. In silence, we began to walk towards the woods. Just before entering, we were stopped and told to put our cards face down on the ground. Without looking, we were to choose three cards at random, rip them up, and toss them aside. My heart began to feel heavy as I could not see what was on the other side of the card. I wonder what I’m left with, I thought to myself. Despondent, we picked up the scattered cards and continued our trek deep into the woods. We were stopped one last time. What more is there to take? What more could I possibly lose? We tossed our remaining cards on the ground. “Imagine, you’ve made it this far, but you don’t know where your family is. You are left with close to nothing save the clothes on your back. You are weary and wondering if you will ever see your family again.” This time, several of our cards were taken from us. They were crumpled and trampled on. Watching that happen was heart-wrenching. I was afraid to look at my remaining cards to see what I was left with. All were silent. You could hear the wind rustling in the treetops. It was a very sobering experience. To think that you could be with your family one moment and then the next moment they are gone, with no reassurance of your ever returning home. I have chills when I think about it.
Not until I had experienced this simulation did I realize how much I have to be grateful for. I don’t have to flee my home or get rid of precious treasures, yet I find myself still complaining. Is life really all that bad? This is definitely a wake-up call for me and I hope it is for you as well. We are entering the holiday season when people tend to practice being thankful. We don’t need to wait for Thanksgiving to show gratitude. May we learn to always be grateful for what we have, embrace the life and freedoms God has given us, and count our many blessings.