A New American Dream

Sometimes when life gets really busy, it’s easy to miss what’s right in front of me.  That almost happened to me last week.

I was at the beauty supply to pick up some hair products and I ran into Lilly, a woman I worked with over six years ago.  We struck up a conversation and Lilly asked what I was doing now.  I told her a little bit about With This Ring and it turned out that she knew someone living in her apartment complex that does work in Africa as well.  Before we said goodbye, I gave her my business card and asked her to pass it on to him.  He called the next morning.

Michael came to the United States over 20 years ago after the civil war in the 1980’s.  He was in the Ethiopian army during the war and, tragically, his entire family was burned to death.   Fortunately, he, his wife, and her family found a way out and came to America for refuge.

When Michael arrived here, he had very little and was appreciative of even the slightest opportunity.

He worked hard and eventually gained success.  Before he knew it he had a good job, two kids and he and his wife were able to buy a nice house in Southern California on an acre of land.

It wasn’t long before his family began acquiring nice things.  At one point, his wife had around $15,000 worth of jewelry and they even owned two high-end luxury vehicles.

I was amazed at Michael’s story.  Like so many of us dream, he became the exception to the rule.

He came to America seeking refuge and safety from the terror, bloodshed and starvation that fell on the innocent people in his own country.  He wasn’t looking for success or upward mobility, but before long that’s the path he found himself on, pursuing the “American Dream” like everyone else.  He acquired property, cars, and trophies that told of his newfound success.

Then, one day, he woke up and realized that he had forgotten his people and where he had come from.

Compelled to change that, he gave away one of their cars, sold their house and moved his family to a small ap

artment where he started a charity to help bring hope back to his people in Ethiopia.

As I listened to his story I blamed myself and our culture for stealing away his pride, his connection to his country, his core values and ultimately everything that made him unique and set him apart from the rest of us.  Michael was immersed in a culture obsessed with “stuff” and the longer he lived here, the more he found his own heart and life being shaped by the same obsession.

He started with nothing, became something, then returned to a meager lifestyle in an effort to change lives with what he had been given.

He is a hero to his people, and a hero to me.

I love our country and I love that we stand for justice, freedom and the pursuit of peace and happiness.  But I wish we loved people more and our stuff less.

Sometimes, I envy people in developing countries. In many ways they are richer than we are –  in love, compassion, good deeds and even generosity.

I’m not saying that I want to leave America.  Just the opposite, actually.  I want for average Christians like you and me to do more with the freedom and opportunity we’ve been given.  I want to stand for something bigger than myself.

So perhaps a new “American Dream” is in order – one that gives a higher priority to the needs of others than to my lust for more stuff to fill my (already full) American closet.


More money, more stuff, more debt, less happiness!

Does anybody out there relate to this at all?  Maybe you want to share your own story of how God has compelled you to pursue a different dream.  Feel free to share and let’s explore together how to spur one another on in this new dream!


Ringless in Christ,

Ali Eastburn