It’s sad that it takes a trip to another country to truly gain perspective on your own country. But it’s true. This last week I went with a team from my hometown to Nicaragua on a short term medical mission trip. The goal of our mission trip was to go out into the rural communities, provide medical care to all who arrived, and give them information about the new local free clinic getting ready to open nearby, so they can continue the treatment and follow ups they will need in the future. This is the second trip I’ve taken to Nicaragua for medical missions, and I come back each time with new and different realizations.
- Kids are kids! It doesn’t matter what the culture, the setting, the social status, kids just want to play and run and jump and laugh and indulge their curiosity. I met a little girl, age 7, who reminded me so much of my own daughter. She was shy, dressed in her little polka dot shirt, frilly jean skirt, and brown sandals–she could’ve been any of our daughters. The kids at one clinic day loved playing on the pile of cinderblocks just outside of the church. No matter the culture, kids want to play!
- Mommas are mommas! Whether a mom was nursing or bottle-feeding, getting angry at her child, or just worn out by her children, I saw so many momma faces and actions that I recognized as my own. I didn’t understand what the moms said to their children, but I very clearly understood the actions, reactions, and motivations of these Nicaraguan moms–because they were my own. The mom who signed up her kids first to see the doctor and put herself last–I am her. The mom who yelled multiple times for her child to “venga aqui!” (come here)–I am her. The mom who wearily cuddled her child in the heat and passed snacks to her bored, whimpering, moody child– I am her. Being a mom really isn’t all that different in another country.
- Love doesn’t need words. As an English speaking woman from Oklahoma, I don’t speak nor do I understand Spanish, especially rural Spanish! However, a smile, a soft touch on the arm, a kind hand offering help, a simple hug, soft eyes, those are the elements of love that are conveyed without words. Love is shown through action and reaction, not necessarily through language.
- Pain and blood and worry and suffering look the same. I’ll never understand why some groups of people think they are above or better than another group of people. I’ve seen the pain and blood and worry and suffering of people who look differently, pray differently, speak differently, and yet we are united in the fact that we feel these same feelings. The father worried about his child, the mom in constant pain, the child seeing a trickle of blood for the first time, the elderly man wincing in pain from a sore leg, a woman agonizing over the loss of her husband–emotions like these are raw, deep, and should unite us a humans–beyond any race, religion, culture, country, language, etc.
- America is a spoiled brat who doesn’t appreciate what she has. I love living in America. America isn’t perfect, and I understand people are fearful and scared and worried about what will happen next with our new President, but I also understand that as a country, we are so far advanced and more established and sound than other countries. We forget that clean, healthy water is a normal part of everyday life. We forget that so many of us not only have jobs, but are able to choose a job we like to better our family. We forget that we have sewage systems that flush our waste into areas that don’t contaminate our drinking water. We forget that we just had the ability to vote for a candidate for President–rather than being run by a militia, a monarchy, or a dictator. I’m not saying American citizens should stop trying for better (because we need it!), but maybe we should also have an ounce of thankfulness every once in a while, instead of taking some things for granted.
It’s very humbling when you realize the flaws in your own society, the sadness in another country, the ties that bind you to another human in another culture. I love Nicaragua, and I love the Nicaraguan people. They have such a special place in my heart. Not everyone will have the chance to visit this beautiful country and its gracious and kind people, but I pray that at some point everyone has a chance to witness another culture. It is life-changing and perspective-adjusting.
Wishing you perspective in the middle,