In December of 2004 a devastating tsunami hit Sri Lanka; over 35,000 people died. Mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers, children. Gone. Houses destroyed, communities decimated and lives forever altered in moments. In October 2014 a landslide buried 150 houses and over 300 people confirmed missing, were never found alive. Living in relative affluence and safety which I take for granted, the misfortunes of many seem so far removed from me. These things simply don’t happen on this scale where I live.
Almost all of our homeowners in centrally located Dambulla, Sri Lanka make their living off the land. They are farmers. They grow rice, sweet potatoes, onions, and only get paid at harvest when they can bring in and sell their crops. They don’t have insurance, 401Ks or retirement benefits. Habitat Sri Lanka works with partner families to teach the basics of putting money aside when the harvest comes in so families have money to finish their homes or send their children to school.
So many of our fellow humans truly live at the mercy of an unpredictable environment. Storms come without warning. Crop yields or market prices are less than expected. The safety net is shallow. Yet, living with such a great sense of vulnerability creates a culture of resilience among those who know the fragility of life. When loss comes, they hold hands and help one another come back, put the past behind them and move on, into the joyful gift of one more day.
This is an incredibly humbling notion. Those of us who do not experience this dependency risk believing the illusion that we are in charge of our future. We are not; but because of what we have – education, financial stability, access to healthcare – we have a much better shot at shaping it. A profound sense of gratitude settles deep within me to have worked among those who live in relative poverty. I know that I do not deserve all I have. Life itself is a gift.
Opportunity to be the helping hand for someone in need is ours to discover every day. Your family, your neighbor, a stranger on your street, or someone with a funny sounding name on the other side of the planet needs you. Open your eyes, your heart, and your wallet to those in need and you will be rewarded in great and intangible ways.
Don’t wait for your life to happen. Go get it!