Aug. 22, 2005: We Have the Good Life; Hondurans Have the Good Attitude

My mission trip to Honduras was beyond anything I could have imagined. I highly recommend it if for nothing else than to give you some perspective on how good you have it. We have been abundantly blessed and still can find enough wrong with our country and ourselves to whine like spoiled brats. The Hondurans we visited have next to nothing — no lights, no water, substandard housing, poor sanitation, little education, no convenient medical facilities, bad transportation, scant hope for economic improvement in their lifetime — and yet they seem more content with their lives than we do with ours.

The most rundown shack in the worst neighborhood in Georgia would be far better than many of the homes we saw during our week there. Likewise, the poorest person in the state will have a standard of living that surpasses that of almost all of the people in Casa Quemada, a remote village in central Honduras where we worked.

And work we did. Your humble scribe — who has never seen a project he couldn’t hire someone else to do — helped to build latrines, laid water lines for a local church, assisted in a makeshift eye clinic and entertained local kids with corny tricks that my grandsons have kindly tolerated since they were tykes. I quickly learned that a child’s laughter sounds the same in any language.

The most amazing part of the trip was the thousands of children lined up along the sides of the road we traveled from the ranch where we stayed to the village of Casa Quemada. It was a 30-mile trip that took two hours because of the tooth-rattling dirt roads. Someone on an earlier trip had gotten the bright idea to toss a few tennis balls out the window to the kids. It was such a hit that this time we came loaded with large duffle bags stuffed with tennis balls, Beanie Babies, baseball caps, beads, crayons and coloring books, combs, shampoo, toothbrushes, crackers and the like. For four days, we tossed these items out the window of our bus to kids who reacted like mine used to on Christmas morning. Never have I seen so much joy expressed over such mundane items.

On subsequent days, we would pass through the villages and children would proudly display their prized ball or wave the cap they had caught on one of our earlier runs. One child held up a picture she had created from the coloring book she had snagged earlier. Maybe Hondurans are dirt-poor compared to us, but they showed us that kids can actually survive without video games, MTV, shopping malls and baggy jeans. Maybe the world isn’t coming to an end after all.

In fairness, we had several young people with us on our trip, and they give me renewed hope in the next generation of Americans. I can think of a number of ways these kids could have spent their precious summer vacation rather than laboring in the steamy climes of Honduras. But there they were, working as hard or harder than everyone else and enjoying themselves immensely. More importantly — grandsons, please take note — they have seen a side of the world that none knew existed before the trip. As a result, they just might succeed in making this a better place in their lifetimes because now they know it is possible to do so. One can always hope.

We went to help the Hondurans. They helped us more. Everyone came back with a better appreciation of just how fortunate we are and thankful that our parents saw fit to birth us in the United States, allowing us a standard of living unimaginable in much of rest of the world. We learned also that it really is more blessed to give than to receive.

I am glad to be home to hot water, air-conditioning and concrete highways, but a part of me will always be with the Honduran people. My thanks to Honduran Outreach International for making the trip possible, to Rev. Laura Eason for making it successful and to the people of Casa Quemada for making it unforgettable.