With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, this is a time of year where people often talk about the things that they are thankful for. Everyone knows the experience well, you might say to a friend, “man, I’m really thankful that” and you can fill in the blank. Maybe you sit around a table on Thanksgiving eating with your family and take turns telling everyone what you are thankful for this year. Also, familiar to most of us, is the experience of an event that causes us to realize just how thankful we are, or should be for the comforts of home and America. Nothing, in my opinion, will bring about such thoughts than a trip to a developing nation, a trip that I have had the opportunity to make on many occasions.
Travelling in the developing world is often the antithesis of everything we know here in America. Things rarely run smoothly or efficiently, as we would describe things in the United States, little consideration is given to time, and the material needs of large amounts of the population in developing countries go unmet everyday. Many people who experience this will come back “changed”. They may not waste food, they will give more, and they won’t care so much that they drive a Ford Explorer, not a Range Rover. However, I believe if you travel to a developing country and really engage with the people you meet, you will be radically changed, even beyond the things we have come to expect. Last summer, I sat in the middle of a field beside the pick-up truck I rode to a displacement camp in the middle of the Rift Valley in Kenya. There I spoke with two men who by all of our American and Western standards had literally nothing. My friend Haran sat in the same pair of pants he wears every day, a red Nike windbreaker he picked up somewhere along the way, and a Wake Forest hat that my friend Joe lent him to work on the farm. Haran lives on little more than two dollars a day, lives in a mud-hut, and has to provide for three children on his and his wife’s meager salaries. Haran doesn’t have a TV, no deep fryer to make a Turkey for Thanksgiving, and by all accounts is one of the poorest of the poor in the world. But in all that poverty and hardship (Haran’s house was burned to the ground in post-election violence in 2008), Haran sat there with me that day in the grass full of joy, full of life, and full of dignity, even while in absolute poverty.
For Haran it is the simple things. He has a job while over 40% of Kenya does not. He has a roof over his head and a loving family. For Haran, that is all he needs to have the joy that those chasing the American dream often lack. Would Haran love to have financial wealth? An easier life? Absolutely. But Haran understood that the lack of those things couldn’t take his joy and dignity.
As I drove away from Haran’s village that evening I remember thinking to myself, I am thankful for Haran, and his joy. My next interaction with Haran would take place through my friends in Kenya who were able to be by his side in the hospital where he lay recovering from a traffic accident that claimed the lives of several of his co-passengers. Haran lay there broken, yet the joy never left.
So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for Haran. For people like him who have taught me that there is more to life than any material possession I own. I am thankful for the opportunity to know and serve individuals like him in developing countries, and thankful that I get to come to work tomorrow and continue to work towards a world where people like Haran can have joy without the poverty.
-Will Curtis, Nourish International National Office
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