So… I’ve been back in the United States following our mission trip to the Dominican Republic for four days now, and have been experiencing something wholly unexpected rather frequently since our return: culture shock.
Yes, culture shock. In my native culture. Following a trip to a culture that can probably best be described as “other” in comparison.
Who’d have thought?
It seems to stem from the fact that we are such a privileged people here in the United States… we have our every desire right at our fingertips. For food, there’s a supermarket. If you need clothing, there’s a mall. If you need a car, credit’s not that hard to find… for just 60 easy payments or so, you can have that brand new [insert model here]. Shelter? We rarely give it a second thought. Clean water? Not a moment’s.
It’s so odd. When we arrived home early Friday morning, we pulled in the drive and I just sat there, staring at the comparative mansion I’m privileged to own. A far cry from the dirt floored, tin-walled shacks I saw in the Dominican, I felt shame to have so much for myself, Nancy, and my three kids.
As I drive down the highway, I can’t help but be amazed at what I see. Bright shiny new vehicles, left and right… all cruising down the road in an orderly fashion (well, for the most part). If we see a motorcycle, it’s usually a big Harley or a Honda Goldwing… with at most two riders. I can’t help but envision the highways in the Dominican, full of 150cc Honda knock-offs, weaving every which way with as many as six people riding (yes, six!). I can’t help but recall the bumping and lurching of the bus we rode in the Dominican (to think, we complain of potholes).
When I entered Wal-Mart to pick up a couple items we needed, I couldn’t help but envision the Dominican market, with all its small vendors, each peddling their own unique wares. And I remember the smell of the meat market, the “fresh” fish, and the live chickens waiting for slaughter. I’m amazed at how we have everything available at our fingertips.
And when I flew from Dallas to Kansas City at night, I was utterly amazed at the millions of points of light shining up at me from the ground. We light our highways, even entirely vacant parking lots. There, light is a privilege, available only if you’re lucky enough to be the recipient of a few hours of electricity in the middle of a rolling blackout.
As I witness all these things, and continue to be reminded of the gap between us “haves” and the Dominican “have-nots”, I struggle mightily with one main question:
Why are we so blessed to have so much, while the Dominicans have so little?
Why was I blessed to be born in the United States?
I have a feeling I’ll be struggling with these for a LONG time.
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