Written by Katrina Martin of Toronto, Ontario
The moment felt utterly surreal. I was perched on the helm of a long-tail boat, listening to soft Thai reggae and watching the sunrise over the turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea.
Having somehow impressed our boat driver the previous day with my less-than-impressive ability to speak Thai, my friends and I had been invited to forgo dingy yet expensive accommodation on Koh Phi Phi and instead spend the night on the boat.
Long-tail boats are nothing glamorous; they are essentially glorified canoes with a questionable motor strapped to the rear. We slept on the wooden floor with life jackets as pillows, lulled to sleep by the senseless Thai chatter of the drivers and the gentle rocking of the waves.
It was an unforgettable experience – certainly one that you pull out during backpacker sharing time. Yet my excitement was sobered when I realized that for the drivers, this was not some rich cultural experience but just another night.
Only as I watched them begin to boil rice over a small stove did I realize that this boat, no more than six feet wide, was their home. For months at a time their lives are packed into dry bags and stored beneath the wooden benches they sleep on. They crouch and climb, pack and unpack, are at the constant beck and call of the tourists, and at the end of the day have not made more than $12.
The night before we had sat on the floor of the boat, wrapped in a heavy cloak of darkness lifted only by the light of a small lantern and the thousands of stars above our heads. Stumbling along in a variation of Thai and English, I asked them about their lives.
Ameen, our round and sprightly driver, nonchalantly explained that he sends nearly everything he makes to his mother in Bangkok. “I have nothing!” he laughed, throwing his hands in the air. “I am happy!” he added.
And I believed him. I believed him more than I believed the obviously posed laughing pictures on social media, or the ubiquitous advertisements apparently offering a perfect life along with whatever the product may be.
I believed him because I have had a closet overflowing with clothes I never wore, and a makeup bag worth more than what these drivers make in two weeks, and still I had never felt the presence of Jesus as acutely as I did at that moment, with those who had nothing.
Jesus and His disciples also had nothing. They relied on the generosity of others for their earthly needs, and did not even have a bed to call their own.
Materially speaking, Jesus and His disciples also had nothing. They relied on the generosity of others for their earthly needs, and did not even have a bed to call their own. Yet as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:10, they were “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
Trying to live a simplified life is an arduous journey of severing the redundant and resisting the shiny things. However, having lost everything of this world we are still able to say, “I have nothing. I am happy.”