Thursday, August 19, 2010


Kecia Burcham


Lessons from Belize

What a blessing it still is to live in America!  Having just returned from a mission trip to Belize, I was reminded of just how much we have to be grateful for.  However, I also found that there are certain advantages in a third world village that enlightened and surprised me; things we have moved away from in our modern world that may well be worth revisiting.
As parents here in Nashville as well as many cities and suburbs, the neighborhood where children can roam freely and safely is almost a thing of the past.  Even the nicest communities can be homes to pedophiles, careless drivers and others who often don't have the best interests of our children in mind.  What struck me in the Belize village of Crooked Tree is that the children roam the relatively automobile-less streets regularly with only one another.  Rarely are parents with these children, and yet they seem completely comfortable to walk the village.  There is safety in numbers and in the tiny dirt streets where everyone knows everyone else.  A whole herd of unattended smiling, happy children greeted us in the church yard by 8:00 am every morning during my week long visit.
I was reminded of my own childhood when we explored the neighborhoods with our friends until the "street lights came on" which was the signal to come home.  We didn't have to fear so much for our safety and we looked out for each other.  We didn't worry that someone's parents would sue our parents if we made a bad choice. We were expected to be responsible and assumed to be safe.
I saw cooperation in the village.  The children had each other and they knew how to solve their conflicts, share, take turns and depend on themselves.  I never saw them argue and when we played games where there were winners and losers - no one cried "that's not fair" or whined.  And yes, someone won and someone lost, and that was that.  There weren't any parents there to make sure everyone got something for participating, and no one expected it.  Winners and losers both laughed and smiled and survived.
I saw things that would appall many modern American parents, but some of it looked a whole lot like simple responsibility to me.  For example, cows and horses roam the streets wildly and leave their droppings in the fields where children run barefoot for the most part.  No one appeared sick although it made me a little squeamish.  The makeshift monkey bars in the church yard consisted of an old water pipe near a big cement block which certainly wouldn't meet American safety standards.  There was even an old clothesline partially coiled up in the churchyard that you had to avoid getting tangled in.  When I stepped around it daily, I would think of how many lawsuits would be filed over such as that in America.  I thought about how simple it is to just take responsibility for yourself and avoid things that might be in the way instead of blaming someone else and heading off to court.  Children in third world countries know that.  They know to be careful so they don't get hurt, and they know how to pick themselves up if they do.  I only saw one set of tears in the entire week when a little boy fell down, and they were quickly dried. 
I was happy to return to the comforts of home, but I do think there is something to be said for the freedom and innocence enjoyed in that tiny village in Belize.  They have a different set of worries - poverty and education among them and those are huge obstacles, but things seem somewhat safer in some instances and a whole lot less complicated.

1 comment:

Cherry Cadle said...

Thanks so much for reminding some of us how happy we can be when life is simple. For me personally, the poverty,education and opportunities are some of the reasons why I appreciate this country of United States so much. It often puzzles me why so many americans don't seem to understand how lucky they are in so many aspects of life but then again not many of them had the experience of living in a third world country. I am patiently waiting for the day when I can go back to Crooked Tree and live the rest of my life enjoying the simple things. By the way, I also appreciated that you point out the winners and losers part with the children because I have watched with horror where teachers and coaches are putting this bad idea in the children's head that everyone is a winner. What a Crock! Thanks again and hope you had a good time in my little village.