Two lines in a monthly blog sent by my grandson and his wife caught my attention the other day. This faith-filled couple, newlyweds only a year ago, have chosen to begin their life together in Nicaragua where they are engaged in an organization that is making this world a better place. As members of CEPAD (the Counsel of Protestant Churches in Nicaragua) they live and collaborate with the people, providing faith-based training in sustainable agricultural practices, leadership and economic development. In answer to Jesus’ command to “Go out and teach all nations”, CEPAD’s programs are designed to break the cycle of hunger and poverty present in today’s third-world countries.
Phil and Olivia told of a brief exchange between a young Nicaraguan farmer and visitors from a church in Michigan who were spending a week in his country. The young farmer showed the visitors his new fruit trees and the vegetables he had produced. He explained how he had grafted the trees for better production and how he had used local materials to create organic compost, insecticides and preservatives. One visitor asked, “Are you taking the extra products to market so you can earn more money?”
“No,” replied the young farmer. “We are kind people. We give them to our neighbors.”
Now, I believe the thought and the question from the American was perfectly logical. That question is so American. We are a society that thinks in terms of profit and loss. Each of us has at least a quiet desire to advance our position regardless of where we stand on the ladder of success. It’s the American Way.
But I wonder what the young farmer thought. I wonder if he questioned what we Americans are really like. After all, the advances in production he experienced were, at least in part, the result of the lessons learned from the good people of CEPAD. In addition, the questioning visitor appeared to be from an American church that had a sincere interest in the lives and ways of Nicaraguans. Would the American not see that one’s success is best shared with those who surround you and are still in need?
This example makes me pause for thought. Throughout history, kings and rulers with their entourage have risen and fallen in culture after culture over eons of time. Meanwhile, the worker, the serf, the peasant, has carried on life pretty much the same despite political frays of the influential and wealthy. Why is this so?
Maybe they have lived and survived because of a culture of sharing that supersedes the perceived need to “get ahead” by the rich and famous. Maybe – just maybe – there is a better way than the well-known and often envied American Way.
Now, that is something to chew on.