As my husband and I drove home from the airport, tears streamed down my face. We had just returned from a 10-day vacation in Colombia, South America to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. It was an amazing trip. We stayed at a lovely beach resort but spent our days exploring the beauty hidden in that area of the world. We walked through neighborhoods and hiked in the jungle. We ate local food. We made new friends. We met the indigenous people. We became so absorbed in the country that when we returned home, all I could do was cry.
I cried and sobbed, not because vacation was over. Not because we’d have to re-enter the real world. Not because I was glad to be home. But because of what we have at home.
My family is a typical suburban American family. We live in a middle-class, well decorated, well-kept home. My husband has been blessed with a great job that he enjoys and that provides well for us. We drive a minivan and have a second car. Our large grassy backyard is complete with a patio, playset, and a shed. We are overly fed, have medical insurance and medical help readily available to us, have an abundance of toys and gadgets, take multiple vacations each year, and are well dressed and well-groomed.
I don’t say this to brag, but as a way of acknowledging that we are abundantly provided for. I see it every day, all around me.
My children have been told that we are incredibly blessed. But sometimes I wonder if they really know it. If they appreciate what they’ve been born into.
We try to expose our children to the truths of the world, to the injustices suffered by those less fortunate.
We’ve driven through some rough parts of Chicago. They’ve seen houses boarded up, cars that once had all its pieces that were now stripped down, dilapidated playgrounds that sit empty because of the neighborhoods they are surrounded by.
They’ve seen the begging moms and children who stand under the footbridge into Mexico pleading for help. The boys were aghast to see the houses there in shambles, roofs only partially covering the dwelling, and to find out people actually live in such conditions.
When one of our children complains that they don’t like whatever has been served for a meal, we empathize that even though they may not like it, to please eat it this time. Then we gently remind them that the food on their plate is more than what our sponsored children in Burundi often eat in a day.
My boys pray for our sponsored children at every prayer. They know that many of these children have to walk to get their family’s water supply. They understand that “walking to get water” doesn’t mean they walk into the kitchen and turn on the tap, but that these children walk miles each day to draw water from a well or from a polluted river that causes as much disease and infection as it does hydration.
Our boys pray for these children to have access to clean water, for them to have enough food, to be protected, to know the gospel and have a relationship with Christ. Yet I’m not sure they fully understand the depth of such hardships that many in this world endure daily.
I’m not sure that I fully understand either. I am spoiled. We are spoiled. The amazing community of friends we have, enjoy the same lifestyle. They are spoiled.
This, my friends, is the reason that I couldn’t stop crying upon returning home from our anniversary Colombia trip.
The homes we saw there were about the size of our garage and often housed several generations of family under this one small roof. No carpet padded the floor, only dirt. Many of the chairs seen through the front doors of these homes were the same white plastic patio chairs we had just sat on the curb as trash the week prior. And even the locals knew better than to drink the water. Bags of filtered water, much like a Capri Sun pouch, were consumed by the Colombians.
Yet, despite the poor economic conditions, the Colombian people were genuinely happy. And it made my heart grieve.
They have so little, but they are so rich.
The Colombian climate, averaging a high of 88-degrees, forces residents from their non-air-conditioned homes outside in search of cooler temps. But with the discomfort of the hot homes, came the comfort of friends who would gather to enjoy a cerveza together, laughing, smiling. The children, many running barefoot, playing soccer in an empty lot.
Even though they possessed little materially, their hearts were warm and full.
Today, I sit writing you from my patio conversational rocker, with my feet kicked up, laptop on my legs, cellphone and a Diet Mountain Dew next to me, the wind blowing through my hair. And even now… three years later, my heart still breaks for Colombia.
I ache for the financial hardships they experience and the small homes they are crowded into while my family of 5 enjoys separate bedrooms with extra room to lounge in our single-family home of 3,300 square feet.
I also ache for the Colombians’ joy. Living in a consumerist country, we often associate joy with what we own, not the blessings we have in relationships.
I want my children to know these things. I desire for them to have a face-to-face encounter with how the rest of the world lives, not sparing the hardships, but giving them eyes to see that blessings and joy can abound even in tough circumstances.
I love the chorus of Brandon Heath’s song, “Give Me Your Eyes”.
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see,
Everything that I keep missing,
Give your love for humanity.
Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach.
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.
Parents, this is my prayer for myself, for my children, for my family, and for yours. I pray that we would be teaching our children to have eyes and a heart like Christ’s. That they would be broken-hearted for those far beyond our comfort area. That we would be modeling a love for humanity that they will continue and model for generations to come.
So, my challenge to you today is… what can you do to help your children understand and appreciate their lot in life and that will grow their desire to reach those less fortunate?
Get more of God’s truth and encouragement on Alisha’s blog, Makeovers & Motherhood.