When my math teacher approached me and asked me to accompany her on a humanitarian trip to the Dominican Republic, I was more than stoked. I have always been a firm believer in the responsibility of giving when you have the means to give – and I definitely have the means to give. I mean, my family may not be anywhere near the Jones’ but we have more than enough to take care of ourselves. So I looked forward to traveling to some impoverished area of the Dominican and acting as a super woman for some poor, unfortunate natives. It would certainly boost my ego and heck – I would definitely score some brownie points from all of the colleges and scholarships that I was applying to.
It turned out that those “poor, unfortunate natives” weren’t as poor and unfortunate as I thought. They didn’t have near as much as the average American but what I speak of is a more spiritual sense of the concept.
I traveled with a group called Builders Beyond Borders – an organization that’s based out of Connecticut. Our objective was to build a hurricane shelter that would also serve as a community center and school for the natives of Tierra Blanca, the village in which we stayed. I can remember the first day we arrived as clear as day. After barely stepping off of the bus we were bombarded by grinning faces, hugs, and laughter. The natives took hold of our hands and proudly showed us their tattered village, blasting music and dancing the entire way.
Needless to say, I was taken aback.
Despite their ragged clothing and closet sized homes, it was as though we were the ones in need of help and not them.
This community we were apart of for a week was so rich in the way that we are so poor. There was no such thing as “mine”, only “ours”. I couldn’t even discern whose child was whose because all of the women treated the children as though every one was her own. Even as we were working, all of the natives did as much as they could to help, from carrying boulders around the worksite to mixing cement to layer on the building. I had never seen anything like that in the “unrivaled” United States.
The values that I took from that village are some that I wish to remain with me for the rest of my life. It doesn’t matter how much wealth you have monetarily. It matters how much wealth you have in family, friendships, and happiness. And the people of village of Tierra Blanca were the richest people I had ever met.
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