In a 30-minute drive in Africa, you can go a state-of-the-art shopping malls to a Maasi village that hasn’t changed much in 3,000 years. I often wonder who is better off; those who live with all the latest amenities or those who live with only the basics?
People who have a lot often feel compelled to help those who have very little. Although compassion is a wonderful thing to have, I’ve discovered in myself that my compassion has often been accompanied with an innocent arrogance; I have a lot; they have nothing; therefore I must come to their aid and help them.
I learned that lesson the hard way years ago in a remote village in Nicaragua where a group of us had taken truck loads of food to village whose crops had been wiped out with a flood. I find one of the most bitter ironies in our world is that the people who feed us – farmers -are often the poorest.
As we were handing out rations to the people – and I was feeling pretty smug about coming in and saving the day – an older man whom I respected immensely, walked up to me with a squirming gunny sack. I had developed a healthy childhood fear of opening up squirming gunny sacks because I never knew what my siblings had hid in them.
Nevertheless, Santiago motioned for me to open the burlap bag; in the bottom, still squirming, was a bunny rabbit. This was not the Easter Bunny; this was a way Santiago fed his family. He gave me out of his poverty; I gave to him out of my abundance.
This sudden epiphany of my arrogance hit me as hard as a baseball bat in full swing. From that day on, I purposed to believe that the people I was helping with basics like clean water, food, medical care and education also had something valuable to give and teach me. That’s the way the world should work; all relationships should be mutually beneficial.
I’ve learned a lot, again, in this trip to Africa. Chief among those lessons is the reminder that my life does not consist in the abundance of things I possess.
Instead, it consists in placing value in the people with whom I have the good fortune of traveling life’s journey. I’m most happy when I’m giving and receiving in the context of community and communities. We need each other and are happiest when we place value on the things that matter most; family and friends.
I value you. The words I just wrote have no meaning unless you read them. Thank you for taking the time to read them.
Asante sana. (Swahili for “thank you)
Catch up with the earlier part of the series and follow along!