I just returned from a leadership seminar in Jamaica, which was held at a luxurious resort. The thoughts of gaining leadership knowledge and skills, while on a beautiful island was exciting. Day three of my trip was devoted to community service. It was a satisfying feeling to be able to give back to others. We had the opportunity to visit a primary (basic school), a middle school, and a hospital.

Upon arriving at the schools they were surrounded by large gates. As we drove through the entrance we saw children in uniform and they were carrying their chairs from one building to the next. Despite the condition of the school, which had no air conditioning, no chalkboard, and no visible books, the children were excited to see us. The look on their faces was priceless when we gave them gifts of pens, pencils, markers, crayons, and books. They were very eager to learn about CPR and we had mini-manikins for them to practice on. Talking with many of the kids, their dreams and aspirations were amazing. Many want to be soldiers, police officers, lawyers, beauty technicians, chefs, and a scientist, just to name a few. Even though these children did not have the luxuries that most schools in the USA have, they were still enthusiastic to learn and very respectful to the teachers.

The hospital was another experience, which was very eye-opening, tear-jerking, and gut-wrenching. Although health care is free, the condition of the hospital and lack of supplies was deplorable. Again, just as at the schools, despite the poor conditions the medical staff were very pleasant, had smiles on their faces, and were very engaged in their work. We visited the pediatric unit where there were 45 patients, which normally holds 32 with only three nurses. They did not have IV poles or monitors, things that we take for granted in our health care facilities. The staff does the best that they can with what they have and they welcomed the medical supplies that we were able to donate. Seeing the other areas of the hospital, such as the laundry and central supply was very shocking; without staff there you would not know that you were at a hospital.

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I think that every U.S. citizen should be required to visit a third-world country to see the conditions that people have to live and work under. They would see how blessed we are in the United States, even though we have some poor areas here. Driving down the streets of Jamaica there were multiple unfinished buildings, trash, and junk along the road. We saw a car that had caught on fire and was completely burned and charred, the firefighters were there with a hose, but the water trickled out like it was a home garden hose.

This experience was very educational, informative, and enlightening. It made me think of how thankful I am for what I have. My goal is to stop striving for material things and gain more rewarding experiences. Every U.S. citizen needs to reflect before complaining and be thankful for what they have. Be happy with the little that you have. There are people with nothing that still manage to smile. This also reminds me of a quote from Victory Today:

While you complain about your electric bill,
there’s someone with no home.
While you complain about your job,
there’s someone praying for a dollar.
While you complain about the food in your pantry,
there’s someone praying for crumbs.
While you complain about life,
there’s someone who didn’t wake up today.
Your complaints are simply blessings to others.

Be grateful and thankful every day!

Leslie McRae-Matthews
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