I was speechless. Thirteen hundred miles from home, only 90 miles off the coast of Florida, but I was in a completely different world. Talking to a twelve-year-old kid who knew as much of the English language as I knew about rocket science...next to nothing, I realized something that changed my world. Money isn’t everything.
Growing up, I can remember asking questions like, “why do I need to go to school?”. The answer I received, “so you can get educated and make more money.” “Why do people work so much?” The answer, “so they can make more money.” All I ever knew was money. At every moment in my life, the reasoning behind the task was money. However, my perspective changed, July 18, 2017, the first day of youth camp during a week-long summer mission trip to Cuba. My outlook on money, on happiness, on life changed.
I found myself sitting on a swing, next to a twelve-year-old Cuban boy, named Diron. Sitting between us was a translator from Puerto Rico. “Diron, what do you want to study in school?” I asked. Of course, he looked at me with a blank stare, as if he didn’t understand a word that I said, because he couldn’t! My translator did her job, and she told me that his reply was that he wasn’t sure yet; however, whatever it was he ended up doing, he knew he wanted to have a job where he could help people. My reply? “Tell him that he needs to make sure that whatever he does, he makes a lot of money so that he can provide for his family and help people that way.” Diron’s next reply is what changed my life. He said, “Money isn’t important to me, because I know that if I am able to help somebody that is enough to make me happy.” He said he might not have many clothes, and he might not ever be able to afford a car or be able to have a big house. But, he would be happy and that’s all that matters. So, if I had a ticket in my hand and could go anywhere, I would go back to Cuba. I would spend an extended period of time with the locals, especially the kids, learning the way that they look at life.
When I came back to America, I knew that money shouldn’t be my focus in life. I now know that there is a bigger purpose for me in this world, and that God has a plan for me. Worrying about money all the time is not going to fix my problems or get me closer to happiness. Because of this life changing moment, I have decided to study nursing. I had thought about becoming a nurse before; however, I talked myself out of it because that profession didn’t make enough money. I have always known that I wanted a job where I would be able to help people and also make a difference. Yet, the desire to make more money had driven me to believing that becoming a doctor was my only option
Having this conversation with Diron made me realize that it was okay if I didn’t make a lot of money. More than this, I came to an understanding that in order to have a good life, I just need to do what will make me happy. I would much rather be an excellent nurse than a mediocre doctor. I was lucky enough to be brought-up in a middle-class family and that is where my values and views on life come from. Now, seeing things from a person living in what Americans would classify as extreme poverty, I realized something. The Cuban people are some of the happiest people that I have ever met, and they are able to live a godly life and be truly happy with very little money. When I stepped onto the plane destined for Cuba, I thought I was going to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. Little did I know that those people would have a life-changing impact on me!