Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Life, Liberty and the Happiness of Pursuit

I had a prof at my university that would change our country's slogan to, "Life, Liberty and the Happiness of Pursuit."

I've been thinking about this lately because I went to a home visit last week (the one I mentioned in San Miguel), and the family lived in a hut.  It was literally made of sticks and straw.  Like something you'd see people build on Survivor.  The house was a good size, probably 40x40 ft and there was a wall to separate the beds and give a little privacy to change.  There were 4 plastic chairs (the kind we typically see outdoors that can be stacked)  All were broken.  And they were repaired in impressive ways.  One, the plastic was ripping at the top, and they laced a shoelace through it (creating holes at the top where there weren't natural holes in the chair design) to hold it together.  The remaining three had a couple legs missing from each, and had tree branches carved and designed to work as the legs.  It was impressive carpentry without many tools.  There was no bathroom or shower, but there was running water outside to fill the pila (kind of a concrete cistern used to hold water to be used throughout the day, and usually has one side where people wash clothes by hand).  It was on a pretty piece of land with beautiful trees and a great view of the volcano nearby (which erupted again last week).  There was garbage scattered throughout the area surrounding where they spent most of hte time near the house.

And I found myself thinking about if I lived there, what kind of improvements would I make to the home?  Some ideas came easy, others, I wasn't sure about the next steps I would take if I lived there with limited resources.  I found out that the man's grandparents had lived there and had built a concrete cistern and was surprised that with the decades it had been made, little had been done.

I tried to determine how much of my ideas and thoughts were from my spoiled American mindset.  And I ultimately found myself stuck on the idea of contentment vs laziness.    Because, if this family has enough to survive in a healthy manner, why shouldn't they be content?  But if they have the talent to improve their situation, are they just being lazy by continuing in their meager home?

And I don't know.  I'm still pondering it.  But whether or not this particular family is lazy or content, I know that contentment is something my own culture does not make room for.  This brings me back to the Life, Liberty and the Happiness of Pursuit.  Because we are taught to strive for more.  Never do we have enough.  And while I never want to be lazy, I do want to be able to enjoy what I have and be content.

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