Panama Canal Cruise - Observation About Day 7

I wanted to add a special note about our visit to Puerta Chiapas, Mexico. We saw a lot of really poor people during our trip, and we were moved every time. We drove past homes that were nothing more than 3-sided shacks, with sheets of tin laid across the top to shield the occupants from the rain. The wealthy ones had 4 concrete walls. Cooking and bathroom facilities were outside. Electricity? Nonexistent in many of those dwellings. While rafting down the Copalita River, we arrived on laundry day. We saw dozens of women and children along the banks of the river, hovering in scant shade while they scrubbed their clothing with rocks on the riverside. We saw many children without adequate (or any) clothing.

But in Puerta Chiapas I saw something that will stay with me forever. We were driving through the jungle in a tour van, over a single lane dirt road that rattled our teeth with every bump. The view outside the window was stark. Children ran out of shacks to stand beside the road and wave at us, barefoot and sometimes covered with dirt. We passed another home like those I’d become accustomed to seeing, and my heart twisted with compassion at the humble building. The words Ted and I had said to each other many times came to mind: “I’m so grateful for the blessings we have been given.”

As we drove by, I saw children playing in the dust near a cook fire. In the shade of a building, a woman sat in a chair. She was about my age, and she bounced a baby on her lap who looked to be about the age of my grandson. The look on that woman’s face as she laughed with that baby struck right through my heart. It was a look of joy. She was so delighted with that child! In a second we were past, but I couldn’t forget her laughing face.

A thought came to me then, like a voice whispering to my soul. “What makes you think you’re more blessed than she? Don’t you think she finds joy in her children and grandchildren, as much as you do? Don’t you think she delights in love as much as you? Do you really think your blessings are measured in terms of money?”

I was struck with something then – with shame. How arrogant of me to assume that woman was underprivileged and wretched, and I more blessed than she. Did she mourn not having a microwave? Did she long for the comforts of a television and DVD player, and microwave popcorn, and a self-starting coffee maker? Of course not. She got up every morning grateful for the blessings she’d been given, the blessings of a loving family and a loving God.

Yes, I’m still thankful for all the blessings I’ve been given in my life, material and otherwise. But that doesn’t give me the right to judge someone else’s happiness by my standards. I won’t be that arrogant again.