Last year, my oldest daughter and I went on a mission trip to Haiti after she graduated from high school. My mind often wanders back there because it left a permanent mark on my heart.
One memory that stands out is the day we hauled cinder blocks for the school they were building in the mountains near the village where we stayed. We worked alongside the villagers, and we lumbered up the steep hill in the sweltering heat with 30 pound blocks. I thought I was doing pretty good — I'll be 50 this year — until a 10-year-old Haitian boy zipped by me carrying two blocks at a time. And he wasn't carrying them in his arms, but balanced on his head! That's 60 pounds, which probably nearly matched his weight.
The locals worked circles around us, but we did our best to help. As we passed along the blocks to one another to get them across the river, they smiled genuinely at me in sincere gratitude. I felt something stir inside of me that was so deeply satisfying. I didn't want to be anywhere else in the world at that moment.
And believe it or not, the fact that I was a little exhausted, filthy, dehydrated and sweating beyond belief only added to my gratification. I was ignoring my own needs for once to help make as much progress for these people as possible. I felt like the work I was doing that day was so much more important than anything that I could be doing at home. Improving the lives of these people who are fighting just to survive was so much more meaningful than my usual petty concerns like getting my kids to volleyball practice on time.
Today, I busily check things on my to do list, but I often find myself thinking back to that mountain — to the day we put aside our own trivial, but seemingly important concerns, to serve others. My only focus was on how to help these children, who worry about where their next meal will come from instead of whether or not their parents will buy them the latest version of the iPhone. I can't help but ponder how purposeful and gratifying it would feel to live everyday serving others the way we did that week.
Haitians use and keep every possession they have until it nearly disintegrates. In contrast, we throw out things that are perfectly good just because a new model has been introduced. I can't help but recognize the absurdity of it all, and my time in Haiti has strengthened my resolve to try to live more mindfully.
In respect for those who live in this world with so little, I try to be more sensitive to living simply, not taking and living with more than what I really need. I have resolved to giving away more of my resources, time and talents to others who have less than I do. I am also more aware of not being wasteful with our food or other resources that come so easily for us but not for others. I have also gained a new perspective with regard to truly appreciating all that I have been given with sincere gratitude, reminding myself that I don’t need more, because I already have more.
That trip not only had a profound effect on me, but on my daughter as well. She has gained a more compassionate attitude toward others with a determination to make a difference. Because of this, my husband and I have resolved to embark on future mission trips with each of our younger children. After all, the wisdom and awareness gained from these experiences is priceless.