I love traveling; at least I think I love traveling. You see, it’s been a little while since I last went anywhere that wasn’t here and I think it’s been too long to say I love traveling, lets put it this way: when I have traveled, I loved it.
My few trips beyond the borders of the United States have almost exclusively been with the church that I attended in high school. Our youth group went on a mission trip every summer; I went for two summers in a row. The second summer, the summer before 10th grade, we went to Jamaica (it was awesome).
We’ll start the story in America, the night before we left. The entire team met at our church at 3am to drive to Atlanta, board the plane, and to fly to Jamaica. Unfortunately, flying is not my favorite; if I never had to do it again, I could live with it. I don’t know why, I’ve just always been nervous on planes; I love airports though! But that part isn’t really important. At least the flight wasn’t very long.
Hot. That’s my first memory of Jamaica; it was really, really hot. Second memory: it was so busy; people were everywhere and everyone was moving. All of them going somewhere I’d never been, and likely never will.
We hopped off the plane, hopped on a bus, and rode 5 or 6 hours inland to where we would be staying. And yep, you guessed it: the bus was hot. Luckily every window was open so there was a nice breeze, though I’m not sure half them even could close.
We stayed at a small Christian college that I can’t remember the name of. Our mission? To build a roof and do Vacation Bible School with the kids of a village about 30 minutes from where we were staying.
I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful this village was; it was like a movie. A quaint village with a huge field in the middle, surrounded by lush, green jungle, at the base of a mountain, with a crystal clear stream running beside it. Seriously, it was that cool.
We spent a lot of time playing with the kids, I only remember one though: a little boy named Ashani. He couldn’t have been older than 10 and we bonded pretty quickly, with a bond formed by mangoes. To clarify: there was a mango tree next to the church and both Ashani & I rather like mangoes. Since he was the better climber he’d get up there and pick as many mangoes as I wanted to eat (which I discovered later was too many).
During our free time Ashani would give me tours of his favorite places around the village, we’d play tag or catch or we would chase goats, and we’d sit in the sun and talk. We’d talk about all sorts of things; I told him about America and he told me about Jamaica.
He told me he wanted to be a firefighter and he told me his favorite flavor of ice cream was vanilla. He asked me what my dream car was and I obviously chose a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. He told me his was a Honda CRV, and every day, I’ve thought about his dream car.
I couldn’t believe a CRV was his dream car; I had to pretend that I thought they were cool (I don’t). Come on! A Porsche is sleek and fast and German; what’s so special about a CRV? I mean, they aren’t sleek, they aren’t fast, and they aren’t German. Despite this, Ashani wanted one.
It really threw me for a loop. Not only did it show me how much less he had than I did, but how much less he wanted. I had so much and yet I still wanted sleek and fast and German, I felt so selfish.
I know what you’re thinking. I was there on a mission trip, I was there volunteering a WHOLE WEEK of my time for this village, and I didn’t even ask for anything in return; why should I have felt selfish? It’s not like I chose to have more things than Ashani, I didn’t choose to be an American, and it isn’t my fault Ashani lives in a shack and bathes in a river and wants a Honda CRV.
This little boy, from a little village in Jamaica, was smarter than me. He knew what I didn’t. He knew how to truly value something. That’s why I felt selfish: he was content, and I wasn’t. I took my car for granted, I took my home and my bed and my shower for granted, I even took my fear of flying for granted. I mean, I tell people about how much I hate flying, but I’m complaining about crossing an ocean to visit a beautiful country for a week before returning to my cozy middle-class American life.
Fast forward six years; I still think about Ashani, and his quaint little village at the base of a mountain. I still think about mangoes and Honda CRVs, and every time I do I’m reminded not to take everything I have, which is a lot, for granted.
Don’t get me wrong, I still want things, a lot of things actually. But I have what I need, more than I need in most cases, so I am content. I say thank you more often and show people how much I value things that matter, like them. And you know what? I’m happy with my Camry, even if it isn’t sleek, or fast, or German.