We have been back home in the US for about 1 week now. My husband and I lead a group of 23 other ambitious student athletes in a 9 day trip to the DR. We worked with a community called Guayajayuco to assist them in building a multi-sport cement court to play games and build community throughout the year. Guayajayuco is located in the western mountains of the DR close to the Haitian border. In fact, we drove along with International Highway splitting the Dominican Republic and Haiti and that’s where I witnessed poverty at a level I’ve never seen before, in person. Naked babies, no shoes, dirt floors, no electricity or running water, wood shacks for houses, rarely cars, mostly motorcycles driven with families of 4-5 members, usually babies and children on them.
I’m still having a hard time acclimating to the reality of the life we lead in the States. It’s so different from what we experienced in the DR and while it was only 9 days of my life, it made such an impact. I’m now wondering who lives in the better “reality”? Them or us?
We have so many privileges in our lives as Americans. The majority of our lives are filled with material things, extra-curricular activities, busyness, education and work. We believe that all of those things are “normal”, necessary, accessible to everyone and it’s what we expect in life. Don’t get me wrong, most of those things are good, but are they really necessary? Education and work, yes. Busyness and material things, no.
The problem lies when begin thinking we are missing out, poor and lacking immensely when we aren’t off-the-chart
busy, filled to the brim with material things and having all of the opportunities our neighbors are. It’s sad that often times our identity it tied up in those unfulfilling things and we miss out on the true meaning of life…relationships and people.
I’m challenging myself to not get caught up in the “Americanizing” of this life. I know I can’t completely check-out, nor do I want to give up our conveniences like air conditioning, flushing toilets and shoes on my feet, however I can keep my perspective pure and centered on the things that matter most in this life. While the people in the DR, specifically the western, mountain region we spent our time, seem to have nothing, they showed us that they actually have everything. (Read my husband, Mike’s, post about our trip and how they have nothing and everything) Their reality of life is something I want more of. They have a beautiful reality…one that centers on relationships and simplicity. I think I want more of that these days. I crave more of their reality and less of mine.
I’ve spent the last week saying this to myself, “I get to do…, rather than I have to.” Our quality of life is really a privilege. I don’t want to take it for granted anymore. While I don’t plan on getting rid of everything, tossing my phone and living on a farm, I do want to begin to see life differently. Maybe operate from a place of simplicity and gratitude, understanding that our reality is so blessed. I want to see life as a gift and the things I get to do and pursue as a calling rather than a burden. So, I get to…
- Wake up refreshed from a comfortable nights sleep in a bed with sheets and blankets
- Make a bed each morning
- Brush my teeth in a sink with running hot OR cold water
- Take a shower in a bathroom with tile that I get to clean (or should clean!)
- Flush my toilet paper and clean a toilet bowl with a toilet brush…and I get to wear gloves to clean!
- Load a dishwasher
- Turn on a light switch and it’ll provide light
- Cook breakfast, lunch and dinner for my entire family + snacks
- Purchase my food at a grocery store with an abundance of options and fill up my cart.
- Get fresh produce whenever I want and keep it fresh in a fridge for more than a few days.
- Eat veggies and fruits at each meal
- Cook in a state of the art kitchen with a running sink, electric stove and oven, microwave and refrigerator
- Drive a car to all of my kids activities
- Wear a seat belt and buckle up my children.
- Fill my tank with gas whenever it’s low
- Sweep the floors and throw the dirt in a trash can.
- Tie shoes and choose from a few varieties of them
- Do 2 loads of laundry a day…within a few hours they are washed and dried!
- Floss my teeth
- Connect with people from anywhere in the world
- Google things I don’t know
- Call friends and family whenever I want
- Read a book, because I can and want to.
- Exercise and move for fun and because it improves my quality of life.
- Pack a suitcase with my belongings that is large enough for most families to fit all of their belongings together in.
BUT…They get to…
- Live in the present and with a life focused on each other and relationships.
I know we have a ton of privileges, stuff and blessings, and I would choose our quality of life over theirs, but I’m beginning to think their 1 privilege could mean more than all of ours combined. Or, we need to make their privilege to live in the moment and simply #1 on our list of get to’s… What do you think?