Living With Gratitude
January 2019 mission trip
Catholic Assistance Missions
Haiti. I just read about the first time Mother Teresa walked through the slums of Port Au Prince. She said, “Haiti is more poverty stricken than Calcutta.” I’ve never been to Calcutta nor any other third world country (except Haiti) for that matter. But there’s no doubt in my mind that Haiti suffers deeply from lack of food, clean water, safety and all the simple pleasures that we enjoy every single day. How did I spend so much of my life with such unawareness? I’ve taken so much for granted! Honestly, we as a family give money. We give of our time, talent, and treasure. I’ve kept a gratitude journal for 20 years. So on many levels, I thought that I understood what it meant to live a thankful/giving/Jesus centered life. But Haiti taught me something no hand out ever could. Don’t get me wrong. Giving is vital and important and we will continue to give. We’re called to live a “giving” life. But seeing, touching, living (even for just 10 days) amongst that kind of suffering has changed me forever. I wish I could explain but I can’t fully do that. Mostly because loving hungry children from afar is not the same as loving them in the present. It’s not the same as holding them, looking deeply into their eyes, smiling at them, feeding their hungry little malnourished bodies, and playing with them. Seeing is believing. And I now know how much abundance I live with here in the states. And how easy it is to act petty, to complain, and demand immediate gratification. I am ashamed. Ashamed of my selfish patterns, how easily I can distract myself from the important and vital act of love.
Living with gratitude is a deep part of who I am. As said above, I cultivated this intentional habit many years ago and it changed me on many levels. But now I know it must go to a much deeper level. We in America are somewhat clueless about the dire straits the rest of the world is living in. Even our own neighbor for that matter. Do we comprehend the gift of clean running water? Electricity? Accessibility to medical care and medicine? The food on our tables? I know I didn’t. Even as I return to my ordinary life, it’s so easy to become complacent. To live “as if” this is all a given. To live a waste-filled life. To go about at a speed that relays, “nothing is important except my agenda, my wishes, and my life.” We can even be really good people and still unconsciously live this way. We can be so distracted. I need a new undistracted focus on my life after Haiti.
Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity are modern day heros/saints as my friend Marley put it. The work they do has changed and is changing the world! Their work changes the world one smile or one cup of water at a time. Their work holds the hand of the dying and gives them Jesus as they pass from this world to the next. So often we think of changing the world in a different manner. In big and important ways. But the Missionaries of Charity stay so very small. The love they are offering the world is sacrificial love. It’s a love that takes time to listen and just be present; one that smiles or cradles the child with no other agenda than holding the child. It’s a love that steps out of comfort zones and enters into tough, broken, and dirty situations. This kind of love requires us (me) to dig deep and do the hard things. While in Haiti, I felt very small. I felt like what I was doing didn’t matter or have any significant value. The problems in Haiti are too big. How could I really make a difference? What I did learn is that I really can’t do much, but the small things done with great love do have eternal value. When we see and acknowledge Christ in the other small changes do happen in myself, in the other person, and in the world.
I’m still trying to figure out how I can take my Haiti Mission Trip into my daily life. How it will change who I am and how I live in the daily grind. How am I supposed to go on as I once did? The babies, the children, the slums are so deeply etched on my heart. I don’t think you can ever be the same after an experience like that. I continue to ask myself, “Am I willing to go to the uncomfortable places for love?” Am I willing to stay small in order to love big? Am I willing to be a hero in the eyes of God? I have a feeling God has only begun something new in my life. He is calling me to a love that is much bigger and wider (yet in small ways) after physically holding, loving, smiling, and playing with those so less fortunate than I. Maybe my calling is to recognize Christ in every person I encounter!
I don’t know why I was born into so much abundance but I do know that I have a responsibility to share more than what I have but who I am with those who were born with less. And I know for certain that when I do, they give back to me so much more than anything I can give in return.
I’m forever grateful to Justin and Catholic Assistance Missions for giving me (us) this life-giving, life-changing, eye-opening, and heart-widening experience. I can see the beautiful and authentic love for the Haitian people through this organization. I’m honored to support CAM and share in their love and mission for the Haitian people.