“When I first came to Uganda, I saw so many children with nothing. In America, we think we know suffering and poverty, but in reality, we know nothing. But what really strikes me is the fact that every child is so happy. Even though they have nothing, they smile as if they have everything.”
This quote, believe it or not, is probably the most common thing I have heard from Americans visiting Uganda. While there IS poverty in the United States, it usually remains tucked away, avoided at all costs. After all, who cares about the hobos and homeless? This mindset has been a hindrance to the more sheltered American teenagers and young adults. Because they have been sheltered for their entire lives, they have no idea what the outside world looks like. Thus, when they arrive in Uganda, all ready to “minister to the poor and needy”, they are caught off guard by the sheer number of poor people. The rich exist, of course, but Uganda is dominated by men and women that make less than $500 a year. This amount proves to be staggering to the average Westerner (perhaps American is too general). And yet… There is something that strikes them far harder than poverty, and that’s a smile. The Ugandan people, while not being the richest in the world, consistently find things to smile about. This ability finds itself in stark contrast to the Western world, in which money while being common, does not provide happiness. There might be men that own three houses, four Lamborghinis, and a private plane, yet they only smile for the cameras. Deep down, brokenness affects us all, and money cannot repair the gaping hole in our souls left by the sadness and regret that comes with sin.
Happiness can be found outside of money. Poverty, in all its crushing weight, cannot remove the joy that is somehow found within the hearts of the Ugandan children. They find joy in life, not in the new Xbox or PlayStation. This joy, found within real life, is what astounds many Westerners, who expect to find a lack of happiness whenever poverty is present. Joy is found in an appreciation of God’s creation, not within money or possessions. This is something we would all do well to remember.
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