Growing up in Bucks County, my mother and I always lived in an apartment or a trailer. My mom was a single mom who did her best to provide for me, but I was always jealous of all of the other kids who had large, nice homes with all of the usual amenities.
When I was in middle school, I vowed that I would one day own a home of my own the home of my dreams.
Fast forward about two decades and I am purchasing my very first home in the wonderful town of Lansford. It was far from being my dream home, but it was mine.
Nearly 20 years later, I often find myself complaining about my home. The kitchen is small and there is no dining room, and in my opinion, it is not in any way conducive to entertaining. There are three flights of stairs to traverse every day and the space is very closed and crowded.
There are no closets so clutter is often an issue. The attic has been turned into a bedroom which took away the only storage area we had. Additionally, my back yard is small and on an incline, which makes backyard entertaining impossible as well.
I once again often find myself envious of my friends' larger and more open homes homes with decks and pools, or even a whole lake in their backyard. I want that too. Problem is, with property values being so low in my community, there is no hope in the near future of selling my home and making any sort of money to finally purchase my dream home. I am stuck here.
I was, however, very fortunate to be able to take a vacation recently to Riviera Maya in Mexico. The sprawling resort, plentiful food and drink and leisurely atmosphere are things I could definitely get used to. When I thought about leaving that beautiful place and having to go back to my home in Lansford, I simultaneously became both angry and sad.
We booked an excursion one day and headed out of the resort to a location approximately 90 minutes away. During the long ride, I suddenly found myself quite humbled by the things that I saw. I grew up in some low-income neighborhoods and have lived at or below the poverty level in my lifetime, but I have never seen true poverty first-hand like I did that day.
As we got closer to the Mayan settlements, I asked our driver what the little shacks or huts that I was seeing were used for and his answer stung my heart. They were homes homes that had no glass windows or metal doors; homes, that offered no protection from the elements, insects, vermin or unwanted intruders. I was shocked.
I also saw very small structures made of cinderblocks; again with no windows or doors, in which people also lived. I could see inside some of them and there was essentially nothing in them, save some hammocks attached to the ceiling and plastic bins that held their meager possessions. Scraggly dogs and a few skinny chickens roamed freely on the property. My heart broke for them and I wondered how anyone could live like that.
Then I looked closer. Children ran and played outside in their bare feet. A young couple stood close together staring into each other's eyes. People sat on makeshift stools just watching the cars pass by and what caught my attention the most was that they all seemed … happy.
I couldn't help pointing all of this out to my teenage daughter, in hope of providing her with an object lesson on gratitude and humility so that maybe she will stop bugging me for an iPhone and be thankful for the one she has.
But in reality, it was me who needed the lesson and the reminder.
Compared to their homes, mine is a mansion; a resort even one that provides protection from the elements, insects, vermin and unwanted intruders; one that provides storage for all of the things that I really don't need anyway.
It is large enough to hold several friends over for a night of food and fellowship and my dog resides safely within and sleeps on my comfy bed each night. And while I don't have any chickens, I do have plenty of eggs in my nice cold refrigerator and I know that I am blessed.
How about you?