On my recent travels, I was grateful to have visited a handful of islands in the Caribbean. My trip began in Puerto Rico and continued onward from there to St. Croix, St. Kitts and Nevis Island, Dominica, Grenada, St. Thomas, and finally back to Puerto Rico. Each of those islands had its own unique differences but there was one thing I noticed they all had in common. Poverty. And a lot of it.
Growing up in a middle to upper class family, I never saw a lack of the basic necessities in life of food, water, or shelter. I never experienced not having a television, a radio, nice clothing, a phone or a car. And I spent all of my time around people like me who had a lot and didn’t know what it was like to have very little.
I found it interesting that on each of those islands, there were so many people begging for money or selling hand made items at very cheap costs. What I found even more interesting and sad too is how tourists treated those island natives. The homeless were vastly ignored as their hands were outstretched. And for those selling the trinkets, they were bargained down over and over again to amounts for their products that thinned out any ability to make any profit.
To even get on the cruise I was on, a person would have needed to spend at least $1000 or more. And for those that might have travelled directly to those islands, even more would have to be spent. During any vacation, people buy drinks that aren’t cheap from bottled waters to juices to alcohol. They might even go to the casinos and drop several hundred dollars a day. They will go to restaurants and spend over $100 on a meal. Yet, these same people see a product on a table of one of these poverty stricken people who are asking for a few dollars and they refuse to pay what is being asked, instead bargaining it downward to a much lower number. With change and single dollar bills rolling around in their pockets, these same people will walk by the islanders in tattered clothing asking for help and judge them.
Many if not most of these island people live in shacks and don’t have the abundance of what any of us will ever experience in our lifetimes. On this trip, I did something completely different. I gave more than what was being asked for in the few things that I did buy. I generally only buy necklaces made of shells, beads, or crystals when I travel. I have many from around the world and enjoy wearing them. On this trip, when just a few dollars was being asked, I gave a few dollars more. What I always found interesting, was the total look of surprise on these people and a smile of gratitude when I did that. A dollar goes much farther in these places then what it may go for in the continental United States. As for those that were begging, when I walked by, I gave a dollar or two and did not judge them on what it might be used for.
For most of my life, money in my pocket was spent as I wished. I ignored those with less, and did what I could to get more. I judged those who had less and said it was their fault and never reached out to help any of them. Seeing all of those people with next to nothing on these Caribbean islands brought out a level of compassion within me. If I can buy a bottle of water for $3 to $4, why can’t I spend an extra dollar on a trinket? If I can go on a lavish vacation and spend a considerable amount of money, why can’t I give an extra dollar to a homeless person?
I truly believe that the world’s poverty issues could be solved if everyone pooled their abundances together to help those less fortunate. Sadly, most don’t and most won’t. I know that my desire today is to serve God faithfully and do my part. I attempted to do just that on this vacation, and will continue to do what I can both when I’m on a vacation and when I’m not. What I have today in my life would be considered luxurious to so many. Poverty is everywhere, even close to home where I live. I want to do my part in sharing any abundance I have and it’s my hope that more and more people might do the same.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson