January was a busy month. My role as president of NASSP had me in Texas, the Dominican Republic, Washington DC, and Wyoming. I experienced so many great people, cultures, landscapes, and food. It was truly a memorable month. As I reflect back on the last month, a simple phrase continues to be at the front of my mind, “I’m better than good!” This phrase is the mantra of Keith Hawkins, a speaker I heard at the NASSP LEAD Conference in Washington, DC. Hawkins spoke to over 1,100 student leaders from across the country. He shared his story of adversity and the many challenges he faced growing up. His message resonated with me. Stay positive! Stay motivated! Be kind! Recognize and appreciate what you have!
Our culture tends to focus on the accumulation of things. We need to have more clothes, the new iPhone, or the latest gadget. We tend to focus on ourselves, rarely thinking about service to others. I find myself falling into this pattern of thinking often. Why can’t I step back and appreciate what I have? Why must I have the latest and greatest tech toy? How do I get my own children to understand how good they have it?
On a recent trip to the city of Rio Grande, high in the mountains of the Dominican Republic, I had an opportunity to observe a proud culture who live an extremely different lifestyle than mine in Rhode Island. The community of Rio Grande has a strong belief in family and faith. They are a proud culture and have a passion for life. They don’t have much. Living conditions are different from the United States. Homes are much smaller, often without plumbing. There is no heat or air conditioning. The local river is used for bathing and washing clothes. Many people work in the fields tending to crops. Childhood pregnancy is rampant. Rape is a regular occurrence. An outsider visiting might be quick to say, I would never live like this. If the outsider spent some quality time visiting and speaking with the members of the community, they would observe a positive culture that enjoys a simple lifestyle. As one of our translators shared, “We don’t think about what we need, we enjoy what we have.”
Spending a week serving and working with the community of Rio Grande opened my eyes. It forced me to reflect on the many blessings and opportunities I have in my life. Using Keith’s words it helped me realize that “I’m better than good!” My family and I are healthy. We live in a great house and in a great community that supports each other. I have a great job. I have a beautiful wife and kids who make me happy. I am better than good!!
My time in the Dominican Republic was an amazing experience. It helped me have a better appreciation for faith, friendship, and servant leadership. It reinforced the power of relationships. Most importantly, it forced me to reflect on my own life. I need to slow down, appreciate the little things. Focus more on quality time with my family and strive to find a better work/life balance.
My trip to the Dominican Republic would not have been possible without the support of Lifetouch. Lifetouch has been supporting mission work for approximately ten years. The next Lifetouch Memory Mission will take place in Puerto Rico. I would encourage educators to apply for this opportunity. It will have a tremendous impact on you.
Here is some more info from my trip to the Dominican Republic: