What would you like us to know about you as a person? For example, you might choose to discuss your greatest interests, your dreams for the future, issues or topics that are passionate about, or a uniquely meaningful experience that has shaped you as a person.
I carted my suitcase to the registration desk and heaved it onto the scale. "51.5," the unenthusiastic clerk announced as he stared at my overweight Samsonite suitcase. Embarrassed, I dragged it back onto the floor, struggled to open the zipper, and rummaged through all of my stuff trying to decide which t-shirt I prized the least. I knew that I had weighed it nearly seven times, but I guess the small scale that we had picked up from the CVS clearance section the day before wasn't as accurate as I had thought. My luggage finally passed through, so I picked up my backpack and dragged my carry on to customs with my ticket to Costa Rica, my passport, and new my digital camera all gripped tightly in my right hand.
My church and I had been planning our trip to Costa Rica for nearly six months. I was thoroughly involved in the planning process, and I knew that I would be going into schools, working with some local churches, and being involved in some street-side ministries, typical expectations of a summer mission trip, but this was my first, and I was as excited as ever. I thought that I knew what to expect, but I had no clue that I would have the opportunity to experience Venado, an island off the coast.
The Island of Venado inhabits only 1100 people. There are two motored vehicles, and only one elementary school. Everyone there is very poor. They all either farm or fish, and their society thrives without a single bit of foreign influence. It is so isolated from the rat-race that our world has become.
In order to get to the island from San Jose, we traveled two hours on a bus, forty-five minutes on a ferry, and almost an hour in a one-laned dirt road. The tide was down, so we had to carry our luggage through fifty feet of knee-high mud to reach the small motored boat that would take us to the secluded island. I put my 50lb suitcase on my waist and waddled through the mud, and after what seemed like forever, I finally reached the little motor boat.
When we arrived on the island, our luggage was carried into the host's house where there was already fish frying on the pan and enough rice to feed our entire team cooking over a large hand-dug fire pit. They showed us to our rooms, women in one half of the hut and men in the other, and I placed my heavy suitcase against the wall.
I was embarrassed.
We went outside to play soccer with some kids that didn't even have shoes. I had five pairs in my suitcase.
We cooked dinner with the mother that didn't even have a pillow to rest her head on after a long day tending to her large family. I had one in my suitcase.
We braided the greasy hair of the little girls who did not even know what shampoo was. I had a full bottle in my suitcase.
As gazed at my heavy suitcase sitting up against the concrete wall covered in cobwebs and grime, I realized that its contents, whose purpose was to provide me with ten days of comfortable clothing and conveniences represented the materialism that has become so prevalent in our country. I realized how much emphasis society today has placed on material things-success, pleasure, and fame.
It seems that thousands of students go on mission trips to other countries and come home feeling so blessed and so thankful for everything that they have. They come home with a renewed sense of appreciation for the modern conveniences that America offers, and they promise that they'll "never take their blessings for granted." My experience with the Venadoan people brought me to a whole new understanding.
When I think about the Venadoan people, I don't feel sorry for them-I envy them. Though they lacked the modern technologies that we adore and some of the luxuries that we in America view as necessary, they possessed something that we did not. The Venadoan people are without a doubt in my mind some of the most fortunate people that I have ever met. They were content with their lives. They weren't always reaching for the "next big thing." They lacked material possessions, but were not without love, peace, and contentment, some things that are void in so many households today. While I was there, I forgot about the earthly pleasures, the things, and the fame that characterize our existences on this earth. I will forever remember their hearts and their humility, their honesty, and their innocence.
Upon returning home, I unpacked my 51.5lb suitcase and compared my life in America to theirs. Many would agree that I live a happy life-I have everything that I could ever want, but now when I think about happiness, a whole new picture comes to my mind. I think about the smiles of the Venadoan children, the diligent hands of the Venadoan women, and the honest words of the Venadoan men. Many would say that they should envy my life-but I envy theirs.