During this Thanksgiving season, there is a plethora of topics which could be addressed at our tables as families and friends gather together: election results, the upcoming fiscal cliff or slope (depending on who you talk to), continued uncertainty in Europe, Black Friday game planning, napping, football, and more.
While the coming months will be filled with conversations about how to best prepare for uncertain times for those of us in the financial profession, this is also the perfect time to remember that even the fear of the unknown shouldn’t overshadow the everyday blessings and fortune we have.
Several months ago, I had the opportunity to do mission work in the remote areas of Nicaragua between Managua and Granada. As I think anyone who has done mission work will tell you, the benefit to me was several-fold larger than what I was able to give during my time there.
While Nicaragua’s economy is growing and life is becoming better in this Central American country, there is still a long way to go. The United States is the chief partner for exports and imports in Nicaragua. We see much of their coffee, tobacco, and sugar. And our raw materials, machinery, and consumer goods play an important role in their social and economic advancement. Amidst all of this, what can easily be lost, however, is the human element.
My translator Carlos and I had several great conversations during the trip. As a bilingual translator, Carlos earns a decent living in Nicaragua. His wife is also bilingual and teaches elementary school math. Well educated and professional people, I was amazed to learn that they and their two young children had recently been awarded one of the 20 x 20 concrete homes we were there to help build through the Rainbow Network. Until receiving this home they had called a tarp-roofed, wooden shanty – no larger than most master bedrooms in America – home.
Knowing that fluent bilinguals, especially teachers, can earn good livings in the United States, I openly questioned them as to why they wouldn’t leave Nicaragua for greater income, prosperity, and opportunity in the United States. The answer Carlos gave me was simple,
“We’re Nicaraguans. We love our country. God gives us all we need here and we are a happy family here. We are very blessed.”
It was a very humbling moment for me to realize that my view of what Carlos’ priorities should be was completely backward.
During my time in Nicaragua, I was awestruck by the constant smiles and joy of the people. For example, I saw children waiting at a medical clinic, three generations of a family living together in a tiny house, a woman who stitched 50 baseballs a day on her front porch for a major corporation (which paid her $5 a day, a high income for a Nicaraguan), young boys heading onto Lake Nicaragua in a roughshod boat to catch food for their family to survive on, and children who followed around Americans begging for money. Despite the conditions faced, each person had a smile and a passion for life unlike anything I had ever been around.
During this time of giving thanks, it’s important to take a moment and reprioritize what we worry about and what we appreciate. As financial professionals, we will always worry about uncertainties; there is no getting around it. But worries such as a fiscal cliff, election fallout, or the European debt crisis should never take a spot higher on our personal priority list than our faith, family, friends, and things which put a smile on our face and make us passionate about life.
Happy Thanksgiving to all from CLS.