I recently attended a seminar where they had a motivational speaker talk about his experience while visiting a third world country. While listening to him speak, I could not hold back the tears not only because of how much the story was moving me, but that it made me realize how much I take for granted in life. I wanted to share some of his talk here with the hopes that it would inspire others to remember how grateful we should all be.
When you return from a third world country it awakens you to see how the rest of the world lives. Visit a third world country and watch what happens to your gratitude. And don’t just go with a compassionate attitude. Go also with the idea: What can I learn from them? I’ve had the opportunity as a motivational speaker to visit several countries that would be considered in this “third world” category.
I think the ones most notable in my mind were in West Africa, the countries of Ghana and Nigeria. And in Asia, India was a deﬁnite. I now live in Southern California and you don’t even have to cross an ocean to ﬁnd third world poverty. Cross the border into Tijuana, and I think you’ll see what I mean. If you go to one of these countries, take your children. Let them collect some toys and clothes of theirs and of neighborhood friends to give to the children in the country you’ll be visiting.
I promise you, this will forever impact your life – and the lives of your children. And while you’re in that third world country, make it a point to visit a local hospital. I’ll never forget the one that Tanya and I visited in Ghana. What we saw there is still sharply embedded in our minds. We complain about things in our hospitals: “The air conditioning is too cold.” “The food isn’t hot enough.” “She has to share her room with three other patients.” “I rang this buzzer, and it took a nurse two minutes to get here!”
Our visit to that Ghanaian hospital was a convicting contrast where cold air, cold food, a nurse’s visit, or just a bed would have been a very welcomed blessing. As Tanya and I approached the hospital’s entrance, we curiously walked past dozens of people sitting amongst a motley patchwork of torn towels and rags strewn across the entire dirt “front lawn.” Any available bush or branch was similarly adorned. As we began walking around inside, our hearts just broke.
The very rare patient with a bed and mattress was the extremely fortunate one. Most had just bed springs. Some patients were even lying on the ﬂoor. And each person had just a ragged cloth beneath them. As we glanced through a broken window at that sea of towels and rags outside, we were humbled to realize that all those precious scraps of cloth were their pillows, mattresses, sheets, covers, washcloths, and towels which the families themselves supplied, washed, and “sun-dried” for their loved ones. We just wanted to cry… for them… for their conditions… for their lot in life.
But we couldn’t. Not then, anyway. We were there to visit and encourage. Yet, most amazingly, it was Tanya and I who became encouraged. Astoundingly, there were smiles everywhere – on the faces of nurses, doctors, visiting family, and even on the faces of the sick and dying. They were so grateful someone came to visit and just share a friendly smile or gentle touch. Many visitors got up oﬀ the ﬂoor (there were no chairs) and hugged us. Just so appreciative someone cared. I’ll never forget it. What grateful and good people! We cried for that… after we left. And these are the people often referred to as underdeveloped.