Commentary: Value what you have

How my entitled attitude was fixed by my Nicaragua service trip

Gazette/ staff photo

Gazette/ staff photo Clara Smith

  I sat on the step of a rusty old house that was falling apart. The only part of this home that was closed off were the bathrooms. I took a breath and inhaled the smell of smoke and burning plastic from a dump nearby. I heard the voices of small children and babies screaming because we had visited them.

  I was in Chinandega, Nicaragua. Not the life I would have ever imagined for myself. My entitled attitude had landed me on a service trip, that cost money, to help people who weren’t as fortunate as me.

  At that moment, I realized I was lucky.

  Lucky to have a roof over my head, clean water, food, a bed and much more.

  This entire experience wouldn’t have been possible without Alto International School, the founders of Monty’s Beach Lodge, tourist attraction and home to volunteer programs giving to the community, and my parents.

  I owe them all.

  While we were in Nicaragua, we had the luxury of being able to help dig a house foundation, paint a house, teach people how to speak English, cook for the poor, help release baby turtles and play baseball with locals.

  All of this was balanced with being able to sandboard down a volcano, watch the sunset, swim in the ocean, surf and paddleboard at sunrise.

  My favorite parts, however, were not the privileges that we had, but the actions of service that we were able to do.

  I realized that I had been unhappy before. With myself, my attitude and my lifestyle.

  Mind you, I was attending a private school. I had always said that I wanted to give back to my community but had never followed through.

  This trip opened my eyes to so many new experiences. The little moments that I was able to spend with the people closest to me made the greatest impact.

  Seeing the attitudes of the locals there. All of them were happy, welcoming, kind and they had nothing.

  I had everything, and I still wasn’t happy with myself. I don’t know what I was thinking at that time because I had felt feelings of shame, disappointment and frustration towards myself.

  My good friend, Anna Yost, who accompanied me on the trip, said the locals taught her that “you don’t have to have a lot to be happy, as long as you value what you have.”

  Now I try to emulate that and realize that it is how you approach your problems and look at life that determines your happiness.

  I’m so lucky to have had this powerful experience that taught me that helping other people makes me happy.

  I encourage you to do things that help out your local community or to go someplace where the people aren’t as fortunate as you. It opens up new perspectives on life and how other people are living compared to you.

  According to Monty’s Beach Lodge, co-founder Don Montgomery was backpacking in Nicaragua in 2006 and inspired by the people and wildlife that surrounded him, he envisioned building a place where people come together to support others.

  You could do the same thing by giving money to an animal shelter, cooking for the elderly, giving people toys who are in the hospital etc.

  You have so many opportunities in this life. Use them.

  I have learned from my mistakes, and I will never take what I have for granted anymore.