As we prepare for Christmas, we are counting down our 12 Days of Opportunity - celebrating the many gifts we have received while working with our clients and staff around the world.
The developing world is so different, and yet I am taken aback by the many things that resonate as “the same.” As I traveled through Nicaragua last spring to see first-hand how small investments in people—financial, time, guidance and more—can change lives dramatically, I learned something I did not expect.
I believe any of us lucky enough to travel to the developing world feel like we will learn about poverty and hospitality in new ways. We begin our travels expecting to see physical poverty, and we do. We expect to be graciously invited into homes for coffee or a meal, often with our new friends dressed in their finest clothing, and we are indeed.
We expect similar insights as others who have learned about the many forms of poverty. We know we may never live among dirt floors or have to choose which of our children to send to school. But we are confronted with the realization that we are lacking in the spiritual joy our counterparts experience. We learn that people, in spite of circumstances, live with an abundance of spiritual fulfillment; and on the flip side, we are often filled with “things” and not content in our spirits.
These offerings are valuable gifts: the extreme hospitality, the abundant joy—even the new knowledge of my spiritual poverty compared with my new friends, who are radiant with gratitude about things I take for granted. However, I feel I've also gained something I did not expect: the gift of abundant sameness.
Yes, we are all people. Yes, many of us are parents or guardians. These facts are not revealing. But what is heartening is learning how similar we are in our desire to work, to be fulfilled and to make a difference. I realized we, whether Nicaraguan or American, want a quality education and a better future for our children. We struggle with dressing our children and equipping them appropriately. We all struggle with balancing work and family life, with getting meals prepared and with getting enough sleep. That we long for community and are bolstered by our friends and neighbors. That we believe in a big God who grants us the same grace and mercy, wherever we may be.
I do not for a moment mean to convey that we experience the same level of challenges. But the fact is we want to do the very best we can for our children, our communities, our employees and our neighbors. We all want to make a difference. I was immensely impressed with the similarities we share as we navigate each of our lives.
The developing world has so much more to offer than we could ever expect. It is beautiful, it is challenging. Its people are as diverse and amazing as anywhere. I am grateful to have met new friends who are so much more like me than different, and I feel more connected than ever after receiving the gift of abundant sameness.