A selfish act of service
We recently had the opportunity to head south of the border and work with Club Dust, a service organization that builds houses for some of the poorest of the poor near Tijuana.
What’s amazing about Club Dust is kids are encouraged to participate. Even if you and your family can’t collectively hammer a nail or saw a board to save your life, everyone still gets plugged into the organized madness of erecting half a dozen small but lovingly crafted homes for well deserving locals.
The situation in Mexico along the US border is tragic and unforgettable. A surge of humanity pushes north in search of a better life, but the border is the end of the road for most. The result is a heartbreaking human situation that is mostly ignored by the US media who have apparently written off Mexico as a wasteland of drug cartels.
We didn’t see any drug gangs, but there were plenty of women with babies and groups of small children running around. Curiously, men were for the most part nowhere to be seen. I can only guess the reason for this, but the answer seems pretty obvious. Living under a tarp next to a landfill with little children who are cold and hungry is pretty humiliating. So the dads leave, maybe intending to make money and return later. In practice quite a few of them get sucked up into the gang life and then just sort of disappear.
Entering this world and building solid houses for Mexican moms who are fighting for the survival of their kids is an unforgettable experience. The need down there is almost overwhelming, but we felt far from depressed. Just the opposite, sometimes we couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces. Other times the tears flowed freely, but they were cathartic tears that brought healing. Why did it take us so long to find out that it feels really good to pitch in and make a difference?
On the long drive home, I found myself deep in thought while the kids slept. As I looked in the rear view mirror at their sleeping faces I realized something. Despite spending most of my married life lamenting the fact that we have very little money in the bank, my wife and I are very wealthy. Our trip to Mexico pulled the blinders off my eyes once and for all.
A certain amount of money is important, but in the US our priorities with regard to finances are all messed up. Now I know that the only true measure of wealth is the size and strength of one’s family, with your friends and community a close second. To the extent that we stand for this we are building wealth. To the extent we turn away from this, we are heading in the direction of poverty.
This realization was liberating.
We gave a few hours of our time helping the poor in Mexico, but what we gained will help us for the rest of our lives. The opportunity to do something truly important as a family strengthened us immeasurably and we received much more than we gave. Thank you Club Dust for showing us that true service is a wonderfully selfish act.
Club Dust was a perfect way for us to end 2013 and we feel stoked about the new year. I hope this issue propels you to pursue a similar level of stoke, whatever that means in your life. Thanks for reading and don’t hesitate to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about taking a service trip to Mexico go to www.clubdust.org or check them out on facebook.
— Matt Niswonger