My oldest daughter and I went on a mission trip to Haiti after she graduated from high school last year. My mind often wanders back there, because it left a permanent mark on my heart. Especially back to the day that we were hauling cinderblocks for the school that they were building in the mountains near the village of OSAPO where we stayed. As we worked alongside the villagers, I lumbered up the steep hill in the sweltering heat with 30 pound blocks in my arms, it was so hard! But I thought I was doing pretty good...especially for my age (I had to add that since I will be 50 this year).
I was drastically humbled when a 10 year old Haitian boy zipped by me carrying not one, but two blocks at a time, and not in his arms but balanced on his head! That’s 60 pounds, which probably nearly matched his weight. The locals were working circles around us. Just the same, however slow, we were doing our best to help and 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. Because 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 keeping my house clean or getting my kids to volleyball practice on time.
Now that I am at home, as I busily check things of my to do list each day, I often find myself thinking back to that mountain, to the day that we put aside all of 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 to ponder how purposeful and gratifying it would feel to live everyday serving others the way we did that week.
Perhaps these feelings exist inside of me, inside of all of us, because we all live with knowing that it is not right or good to ignore the fact that we live in such abundance and luxury while others, through no fault of their own, suffer in such poverty. Consumerism and the ability for many of us to easily acquire too many possessions is becoming more common every day. The 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.
I strongly believe that there is love infused within each of us at our cores, beckoning us to give more of ourselves and take less. Could that lead us anywhere other than to feeling more complete? Acquiring more stuff will never complete us. And in respect for those who live in this world with so little, should we not be more mindful of not taking and living with more than what we really need? Perhaps the emptiness we feel in our hearts is there to remind us daily that there is something more that we can and should be doing. Our hearts are tugging at all of us, not just mine, asking us to live each day in the name of love, giving away more and taking less, dedicating our time and our talents to others who have less than we do. I marvel at how serving others can fill up our souls and complete us like nothing material in this world could ever do.
Laura is the Owner of Clean & Clutter Free, professional organizing services.