Saturday, October 15, 2016

This American Lives on $20 a Day - By Choice

To the majority of my readers, $20 a day is a pittance.  To the majority of people in the world, $20 a day is extravagance.

A few months ago I wrote about the correlation between income and life expectancy, and how Americans could dramatically trim our spending levels without much decrease in our lifespan. 

Then I heard from a reader who has been doing this for the last 8 years.  70-year-old American John Hostetter lives on $20 a day.  Because of this, he gives away enough money to provide clothes and blankets to 200 orphans in Kumasi, Ghana, along with supplemental food when their supply runs low.

A few of the children John's gifts help
You’re probably curious how he does it.  I’ll tell you in a minute.  But first, let me ask you a more important question: are you willing to sacrifice, even to suffer, in order to help those who are already suffering more than you?  As 1 John 3 says, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” 

When we have the desire and zeal to be generous and compassionate, the “how” usually solves itself pretty easily.

Here’s how it works for John. 

His total annual income is around $12,400.  He lives on about $7000 and gives the rest away.  He drives an older car (’02 Venture) and rents the lowest price housing.  He has a friend at the supermarket who gives him blemished vegetables and outdated canned food. 

A typical breakfast would be oatmeal, grits, rice, or quinoa, along with eggs.  For lunch, John might have fresh veggies such as tomatoes, onions, spinach, collard greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, and/or peppers.  And then supper is rounded out with veggies and sweet or white potatoes, sometimes with chicken, ground beef, gravy, and rice. (I share all those details to show that living inexpensively does not mean eating junk food.)

He still does a little mechanical work.  In his spare time he gives away Christian books and encourages people by email. 

I asked John how he combats spiritual pride.  He said the Lord keeps his pride down through constant pain from a broken back suffered in a work injury 25 years ago.  His energy levels are low.  So rather than feeling exhilarated at what he’s doing, John is hungry to serve the Lord more.

Do you feel the Lord calling you to adjust your standard of living, so that you have more time and/or money to give away?  I’d like to hear from more readers.