year ago, I made a trip to the village of my birth,
in the Haitian countryside. I had been away in America
for many years, working hard to make my way in the world.
I returned now to my
island, filled with strange
to tell: Stories of markets
piled with food flown
in from around the world,
stories of doctors who
gave out pills to stop
people from eating, and
stories of cars so abundant
that they clogged the
roads and slowed the
traffic to the pace of
told my fellow villagers, “You know, American problems come from
having too much, rather than too little. And because
of these problems, they have what they call stress.”
They couldn’t believe me! They had never heard of stress
before and neither had I until I came to this country.
returning from my trip, while eating in an expensive
restaurant, I watched a woman send a Porterhouse steak
back to the chef because it had been cooked medium instead
of medium-rare. Later, I watched a man who was dining
with her struggle to decide whether to have orange sherbet
for dessert and stick to his diet or splurge on an ice
cream sundae dripping with caramel and piled with pecans.
Does any of this sound familiar?
You are not
alone. Many times I am faced with such dilemmas. But
I see it as an opportunity to be thankful. How? I imagine
a mountain of breadfruit! Do you know what a breadfruit
is? You don't often see them in American grocery stores.
On the outside, they look a little like a pineapple.
But they taste like a tough, extra-starchy potato. As
a child, I ate almost nothing but breadfruit.
The folks in
my village learned to cook it creatively. We boiled
it, we fried it, and we beat it to a pulp and dipped
it in sauce. But every day it was breadfruit. My tongue
grew so accustomed to breadfruit that I ceased to taste
it at all. I ate it only for survival. My stomach was
perpetually bloated as it struggled to digest all the
starch. I suffered from constant indigestion, and parasites
regularly invaded my weakened digestive system.
Have you seen
those children on CNN or the Sally Struthers commercials?
How did you feel watching the naked children with swollen
tummies and skeletal arms, ignoring the flies crawling
on their faces? Well, that's what I looked like in my
village in Haiti. Most people assumed I would die before
I reached adulthood. They even told me so.
So when my steak
arrives a little too well cooked, or I have to choose
between ice cream and sherbet, I give thanks to God
for the great fortune I've had in America. When was
the last time you took a moment out of your busy schedule
to give thanks for all that you have? Do you cry for
what you don’t have? Or do you celebrate what you have?
Gratitude is the gateway to happiness.
It is impossible
to be grateful and unhappy at the same time. I bet you
enjoy helping out a grateful child—one who is always
thanking you and praising you for your generosity. Well,
that’s the way your creator feels, too. Stop and count
wish you incredible success!