What Haiti Taught Me
“Bless me Father for I have sinned – it’s been three weeks since my last blog post.”
I have been on a bit of a hiatus as I was preparing for my trip to Haiti a few weeks ago. What I wasn’t prepared for was the emotional aftermath from such a trip. It paralyzed me from any sort of productive writing. I had to sort through many emotions upon my return. Guilt for all the things I have been afforded in the US. The feeling that the life I was leading had no real purpose. Overwhelmed at the seemingly endless need and that I could barely make a dent in all that need.
But after a week of processing through the emotions, I have been able to come away with some big life lessons as it relates to personal finance and money. This is what Haiti taught me:
- Responsibility for Financial Gifts There is no financial wealth in the world that will ever be enough for anyone’s desires so be wise about the amount that has been entrusted to you. We are all called to be good stewards of the gifts (money) we have been called to manage. It doesn’t matter if you are financially rich or poor – you still have to manage money responsibly. It also includes giving to others as part of that financial stewardship. Giving not only allows us to help others but puts money in its proper place and perspective.
- Money Does Not Equal Happiness It’s not that I first learned about this in Haiti; rather, it was reinforced. Some of the happiest and most joyful people I met in Haiti had the least material possessions. In the orphanage we visited, the children did not fight or bully each other. In fact, they looked out for each other – especially for the ones that were physically disabled or vulnerable. It was a beautiful thing to witness such spiritual richness in a country with such great financial poverty.
- Focus on One Person at a Time Being in Haiti was so overwhelming in that there was so much need that it felt that what I was doing there made no difference. However, our leader Rob thanked us for coming on the trip and so quickly connecting with the people we met and bringing joy to their lives. And I reflected on Mother Teresa’s words “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.” Not only do I want to help those in Haiti but also women who are buried in debt and are lost in their finances. And I want to help every single woman. But I know I can’t do it all and that I need to start with those around me. So I will focus on helping one woman at a time – changing one financial life at a time. It will be much less overwhelming for me and a lot more impactful for the women I hope to reach.
- Live in the Present It’s good to plan for the future but it’s not good to live in the future. In Haiti, I witnessed people selling fruit, household goods, bracelets in the streets – hustling to sell to everyone who passed by. They were not focusing on a five year or ten year plan. They were trying to make sure that their family was able to eat that day. We often get caught up looking far into the future that we don’t focus on the present situation. It’s great to make long-term financial plans but we have to make sure we are addressing the current day’s needs so we can reach those long term goals. Working the budget. Paying off debt. Living below your means. All of those daily actions will lead to long-term financial goals.
I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to visit Haiti and I look forward to returning there next year. And I look forward to the life lessons Haiti will continue to impart on me and the mission of Every Single Dollar.