I returned last night from a week-long mission trip in Haiti. It was a remarkable experience that I don’t think I could truly put into words. I didn’t realize how much I was affected by my time there until this morning when I went to the gym, trying to get back into my daily routine. Everything was back to normal, I woke up at the same time, ate the same breakfast, and made it to the gym as always, iPod in hand, ready with the same Workout Playlist I had listened to every morning. But, as I ran on the treadmill, I was completely caught off-guard and overwhelmed with a sense of injustice and disgust. The ten flat-screen TV screens ahead of me relayed shallow stories of pop culture, materialistic advertisements, and the ever-present issue of politics. As I watched a clip from one of Lady Gaga’s music videos I couldn’t help but think that while she reeks of ostentatious “glamour” there are hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children in Haiti (and other parts of the world for that matter) who couldn’t even dream up the images filling the screen. I looked around the room at those working off a few extra pounds or merely trying to stay in shape. The people of Haiti don’t have the luxury of needing to workout, let alone would they have the energy to do so. They are more concerned with gaining a few pounds than losing it. These observations may seem a bit blown out of proportion, but not if you really think about it.
There are so many things in our lives, possessions and obsessions, that are not only unnecessary, but flat-out luxury items. Most of what we do, what we own, and what we even think, is a luxury item. However, not all luxury items are wasteful or sopping with self-indulgence. I have come to realize that my love of writing is a luxury in its own right. The fact that I even get to pursue it, even as a hobby, is something that others may never have the means to enjoy. I’m not saying that passion is something to feel sorry about. What really grieves me is that the people who have the luxury of passion often take it for granted. So much is wasted because we perceive what we have as ordinary. We look in the mirror and think, “I’m average”, when we have unlimited resources within us that need only be tapped, resources that can be utilized to make the world a better place, or at least a little more bearable. I interacted with scores of children in Haiti and each and everyone of them holds the potential for something great. I touched future authors and artists. I held hands with the businessmen and ballet dancers of tomorrow, the politicians and patriarchs that could start a movement. Most will never be able to realize their potential because they don’t have the luxury of reaching it.
There has to be a way to extend their reach.