Nick Young, a student of Jenny Campbell at Langley Middle School in Langley, Washington, read and responded to the YES! Magazine article, “Growing Up in a Kenyan Slum Taught Me the Real Value of Stuff,” by Simon Okelo, a story about learning to live with less in the midst of abundance. He is our powerful voice winner for the Fall 2013 writing competition.
Writing prompt: Simon Okelo, who grew up in Kenya, had to relearn what "enough" means. He came to appreciate the volume of options at Costco, but practiced restraint to purchase just what he needed. Imagine that you simplified your life. What things would you choose to pare down or get rid of? What might change for you? What might change for society if other people did this?
A Simpler Life
As I read the YES! Magazine article, “Growing Up in a Kenyan Slum Taught Me the Real Value of Stuff,” by Simon Okelo, it made me think of how I’m very lucky to have what I have. Simon grew up with hardly anything and I’ve grown up with nothing to worry about. It makes me wonder what it would be like without my iPhone or Lucas, my faithful dog. I’m starting to think that simplifying my life might not be as easy as I originally thought it would be.
The first thing I could do to simplify my life is get rid of my precious iPhone 4. In the wonderful few months that I’ve had it, I’ve had the best time of my life. Now I have way more independence. I’m finally allowed to head down to Langley with a friend to bask in the occasional sunlight. We eat pizza and catch movies because my parents feel OK letting me go since I can call at a moment’s notice. Even though my phone and I have developed a wonderful relationship together, I know in my heart it is not a necessity. Sure, I would be “out of the loop” without my iPhone because all of my social media comes off that thing. And I wouldn’t have as much freedom from my mom and dad because without the phone they wouldn’t let me go hang out with my friends. But I know I could live without it. Basically, life without my iPhone would be much simpler, but not as much fun.
The second thing I could do to simplify my life is get rid of our family dog Lucas. Lucas is a lot of work, but I can't imagine living without him. He is one of my favorite companions. I love to pet his sleek, shiny black fur. I always know I can trust Lucas to keep a secret. I can tell him anything and he will listen. Sometimes at night Lucas sleeps in the middle of our hallway, equally close to everyone, trying to be loyal and protecting us from any intruders in the night. What if suddenly my family didn't have enough money to feed him so we had to give him away? I wouldn't have to scoop his poop or feed him if he was gone but then I also wouldn't be able to play with him or take him for walks. So, again my life would be simpler but there would be a piece missing from my heart.
As you can see, my life would be greatly affected if I had to simplify it by giving away some of my precious keepsakes. I think instead that I—and others in our society—could make a difference by donating food, and outgrown clothing and shoes. I would have less clutter, and hunger and poverty would be reduced. If we only used what we needed, then this Earth would be a much better place. So reader, just take a moment and think,” Do I really need this?” You too can help the world in your own small, but very important way.