Saturday, November 26, 2011

Random Reflections about Life Back Home

We returned from rural, poverty-stricken Honduras two weeks ago.  A culture shock to say the least.  Here's some of my impressions and observations, most of which are not "pretty."

**We're becoming a bunch of fat slobs.  I'm not suggesting that there are no fat slobs in Honduras.  Neither am I implying that all people who are overweight are slobs, i.e. lazy couch occupiers whose only calorie burn is the effort it takes to wipe the cake off their face.    I know there are genetic and medical and organic (e.g. thyroid) factors for a number of people.  But, really?

Maybe it's the diet of the poor in Honduras--typically rice and beans.  Maybe it's the small proportions of food available at any given time.  Maybe when you eat to live rather than live to eat you tend to have little excess weight.  

**I notice the extreme sensory stimulation with which we are bombarded here at home.  Non-stop traffic movement. Unending traffic sounds.  The decibel level of human voices in most restaurants makes it nearly impossible to have a quiet conversation because you have to talk more loudly than the surrounding clamor so that the person  sitting three feet across from you can hear you. Visual overload everywhere.  Technological incoming messages abound.  Advertising screaming for my attention, whether via billboards, commercials, internet.  It's exhausting.  When are we ever still?  Quiet.  Silent.  And how?

**I left basically gracious and thankful people only to return to basically in-your-face entitled people.  Thank God there are exceptions but that black-hearted woman who pepper-sprayed competing shoppers on Black Friday may be more of a mirror than an anomaly. 

The pace here is nerve-wracking. We are in fifth gear, pedal to the metal, and continually.   We sprint to a point of exhaustion.  In Honduras they know it's not the 100 meter dash--it's a marathon--and they pace themselves accordingly.  I'll be honest--their pace drives me nuts, not because their pace is deficient but because I'm wound up tight and it's difficult to downshift once I'm there.  Now that I'm back, I'm noticing the intensity with which most of us sprint.  I think it's a recipe for burn-out.

 **I am neither glamorizing or idealizing the poor but this is my experience of them.  Generally, they are thankful for what have and do not speak much about what they lack.  They have very little and somehow find joy in the scarcity.  We, on the other hand, are driven by consuming and acquiring and do not seem to be grateful for the abundance, but, instead, complain about  that which we do not yet have.

**I go on these trips to serve and help the poor.  The great white missionary goes to impart all he knows and he builds these wonderful houses and he thinks he is such a blessing to them.  Invariably,  these people who are so poor materially bless the great white missionary who is spiritually bankrupt.  

I go with the purpose of giving; I return with the outcome of receiving.  


flimflamsam said...

the thing I've learned from traveling to other countries is they have more to offer us then we have to offer them.

Jessica M said...

I think you've taken back a lot from your travel from Honduras. It's made you see the superficiality that many of us go about our lives. To be poor and struggling, should not be glorified, but to live in that way oftentimes causes people to slow down and enjoy every little blessing as it comes.

What you've learned is really valuable..if only more americans could realize the suffering of others..and the gluttony of our senses that we indulge in on a daily basis...Maybe we would learn to slow down, to take the time to thank people, be more polite, more helpful, more considerate and compassionate.

Mattias Kroon said...

Fortunately we in the western world have what we need in material welfare.However, if we want to be spiritually filled with what God has to give us, we can be open for that as well.I am sure your journey there was a very touching meeting with the poor people.They surely need our help.

Steve said...

flimflamsam, Your observation has certainly been my experience as well. I appreciate your humility and openness to receive.

Steve said...

Jessica and Mattias, I appreciate your comments. They ring true with me. I'm not condemning wealth nor glorifying poverty. I do wish we who have wealth would spend it less on consumption and acquisition and much more on behalf of alleviating misery and meeting fundamental needs of survival. I wish I could take every person in the U.S. on a week-long trip to Honduras or, for that matter, anywhere in the Third World. Years ago, when I went from sitting in my sterile and safe living room, watching a 2 minute infommercial to seeing and smelling and touching and being with them and hearing their stories, it changed me in some profound ways. I still have a long way to go, but that initial experience changed the trajectory of my life.

Jan said...

Living at or below the poverty line here in the U.S. most o my adult life, I notice one thing long ago. The poor help the poor and share what little they have with graciousness, always willing to give a helping hand. I have grown in so many areas, the best lessons I ever learned were from having few if any resources and depending on myself and those that shared my plight.
This was a great post thank you.

Steve said...

Jan, thanks for you insight gained not from reading but living. It seems that life unfolds in a way that crisis or adversity seem to be what shape our character the most. We respond either with closed fist or open hands. You have obviously chosen the latter. Thanks again.

Mary said...

Steve, you have to personally take the initiative to stop and say 'no more'. The choice to slow down, taking time to appreciate God's precious gifts, is yours and yours alone.
We do tend to get caught up in the non-stop things of daily life here in the states. It's sad to think that most times it takes a tragedy in life to slap you across the face and remind you to 'stop and smell the roses'.

Steve said...

Mary, thanks for the gentle "slap." You're right. We can't blame the culture, though we should describe and confront it. This past year I have been carving out more brief increments of time for silence and solitude and it has helped me to disengage from the pace. Saying no to Pace and yes to Presence.

cath said...

I agree that we live at a pace and in a society that moves way too fast most of the time. I work in a field that helps many with mental illness and who have little to nothing to exist on. Every day is spent helping those who can't help themselves. And I have discovered along the way that the help I "give" is actually a gift for me...and it has helped me to learn to appreciate my family more, and to live at a bit slower pace. Thanks for such marvelous insight and a reminder to focus on the intangible...and be grateful.

Steve said...

cath, thank you for helping those whom our culture ignores or spurns. Your experience is mine as well--we often receive more from those we serve than we give them.