By Sarah Armijo
Last year, I went on a Missions Trip to Haiti with a team of about 12 people. This was the first time I had ever been out of the country and had ever been on a Missions Trip, so I decided to make it count by going to a 3rd World Country.
If someone mentions Haiti, some think of the earthquake that happened in 2010, some think of poverty, some think of diseases, and some think of the corrupted government. Even though all of this is true about Haiti, now that I have been there, these aspects are not the first things that come to my mind. When I think of Haiti, I think of the beautiful mountains that surround the villages. I think of the clear blue water of the Caribbean Sea that some of my teammates were fortunate enough to get baptized in. I think of the fields of delicious crops that the Haitians grew themselves in order to survive. I think of the Haitian people in the villages waving at us and saying “Bonswa” (meaning hello in Creole) as you walk through the villages. I think of the smiling children who ran after our car just to get a glimpse of an American, as if we were famous.
When I think of Haiti, I can’t help but to think of the beauty of the country, mainly because of how welcoming the people were. We were strangers to these people. They didn’t know what we were doing there or what we were even saying, but they welcomed us into their homes, they let us hold their children, they let us pray with them, they smiled at us as we walked by, and they said hi to us as if we were another Haitian in their everyday lives. Even the Haitians (both children and adults) who could speak a little bit of English would try so hard to just have a simple “Hi, how are you?” or “What’s your name?” conversation with us…those small talk conversations we all dread in the United States.
You see, Haiti IS filled with poverty. It is filled with houses that are made of tree branches and tarps. It is filled with people who barely have food, clothes, and water. It is filled with people who shower once a week in a river in the middle of the day. It is filled with people who walk miles just to get a jug of water for their families. It is filled with people who rely on the sun to know what time it is or when it’s time to go to sleep, because they don’t have electricity. And it is filled with thousands of children who don’t have parents or families.
Knowing this, the first thing that probably comes to our minds is: how sad. How sad it is to live in this kind of environment. How sad it must be to have a child run up to you and hold your hand as you are walking through the village, just because they are seeking for affection. How sad that children are running around without clothes or diapers on, because their parents can’t afford it. How sad that some of the people survive on a meal of rice once a day. How sad.
But you see, despite all this, I think the real statement is how sad we are. How sad it is that we have so much in our lives, have so much food, shelter, clothes, family, water… and we take it all for granted. We waste it. And worse, we strive for more.
The Haitians are the complete opposite. They are praising God every second of every day for the little they have. They are appreciating every second of life and every scrap of food they can provide for themselves and for their families. They even appreciate something as simple as a picture we printed out for them, because they had never even seen their own face, let alone have ever had a picture of themselves.
There are so many little things we take advantage of because we tend to forget how fortunate we really are. So my challenge to you is to start noticing the beauty in your lives, and to appreciate everything you have. Start appreciating your family, friends, food, water, electricity, clothes, jobs, and for the amazing country we live in. Because as one of my teammates brought to our attention while we were in Haiti: we didn’t earn this lifestyle. Almost all of us didn’t work hard to be here in America. We were just born into a fortunate country, while others around the world were born into poverty. There was no difference or special task we did to be here. But as our team leader said, with that great fortune is a responsibility. We have a responsibility to appreciate every little thing we have, and a responsibility to help the ones that don’t have much.
I hope you will take the challenge to start appreciating the wonderful country we are fortunate to live in. I hope you will take the time to tell your loved ones how much you are thankful to have them. I hope you will stop striving for more, and start giving more instead. And I hope you will always remember to see the beauty in everything.