Consumerism versus contentment

In our western world we seldom seem to be content. The mindset is that for our well-being and happiness we need to chase consumer goods and material possessions.

If that is a correct mindset, then what about those in the third world. They have little money to purchase necessities and yet they appear content.  Bill and Wilma Watson spent many years assisting the locals in a remote area of Ethiopia. They never heard complaints about their lives.

What can we learn from these precious people. In this article we will seek to find the answer by looking at their housing, food and farming. Wilma will be sharing how she saw life in a rural area, in south-west Ethiopia.


In the Ethiopian villages they build their houses with dirt, water and straw. The house was around 13 feet in diameter. On one side of the tiny house were the animals.They were brought in before dark to protect them from the hyenas. From an early age, the family members learnt to sleep soundly. They slept through the cows pooing and the rooster crowing next to them.

On the opposite side of the hut, the family slept close together on woven palm leaf mats.

In rural areas the houses usually had an open fire in the middle. The fire provided warmth, light and for cooking. It was the focal point for families to gather as they shared about their day.The cooking utensils were simple having been purchased from the local market.

Time does not rule the rural people’s day. They eat when the meal is ready. Their staple food is corn and a sour bread made from the base of a type of banana plant.  Injera is a spongy, slightly sour, nutritious flatbread. It is traditionally made of teff, a tiny grain that flourishes in the highlands of Ethiopia. Injera is served with a spiced sauce or stew. It contains meat and vegetables (if they can afford them) and spices. The injera and stew (called ‘wot’) is delicious! The Ethiopians are proud of their traditions. One of them is to eat with your right hand.

The ladies take pleasure in sharing stories of how to traditionally prepare grains and coffee.Ethiopia is considered the land of coffee.  Serving coffee is a ceremony of pride that is typically performed by the woman of the household. The coffee is strong, and served in small cups. Salt is added to the coffee (as they can’t afford sugar) and butter.

Wood is collected for the fire. A younger member of the family usually collects the wood, carrying it home on his/her head. Collecting water from a stream or a pool seemed like a social event as they chat with others along the way.  The full water pots are carried on their heads.

The people are extremely hospitable, friendly and relaxed. Eating together brings them lots of joy as they share stories of the day!This appears to give them a sense of belonging and self-worth!

A local woman

Each lady wears an undergarment (dress)while working during the day. When going to the market she wears a colourful dress over the top of their undergarment. For special occasions, she wears a long white national dress decorated with very colourful embroidery.  A matching shawl, called “netela”, is worn over the shoulder. A multi-coloured turban completes the costume. Wearing the traditional dress makes her feel proud and special.

When a woman goes out, she carries her baby on her back. She is at ease breastfeeding the baby as she goes about her normal days, whether she is in her home, in the open at the market or at church.


The men are subsistent farmers.  They work closely with their neighbours and plant grains and vegetables. They prepare the ground either with a hoe, or a neighbor’s plow and oxen. When building a house, it is a communal event.

The men wear shirts and shorts.  When going out they place a white traditional embroidered shawl over their shoulders.

Laid back lifestyle

Wilma and Bill, along with their two children, found the Ethiopian’s easy-going lifestyle and ‘go with the flow’ attitude, enriched them. Bill and Wilma’s enjoyment was found in helping the people and knowing how much they were appreciated. It gave them self-worth and outweighed the benefit of having lots of material possessions.

The Ethiopian way of life surely can teach us all something valuable.Let’s consider this! Do we in the western world use possessions for our validation and acceptance. The Ethiopians are beautiful people who, overall, have learnt to find contentment, value and acceptance in their simplicity of life, culture, family and friends.

Wilma has produced the website to help people find heaven’s peace in our stressful consumer-driven society.

Written and syndicated by YDMA News.

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