I have some family in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. No, they aren't Mexican, (although due to my darkish skin, people often assume as much) they are ex-patriots who have become so fed up that they left. There is something different about the people of Mexico. They are very impoverished...but they are very happy.
Through speaking with the people there, I learned that there is a vast difference in values between their country and our own. Moreover, it is a lot of how they are socialized and taught. This is not to say that we do not have people in America who think as they do; In fact, perhaps many who will read this will share the beliefs of the Mexican people. In contrast, there are probably many Mexican people who would disagree...isn't this the way of the world?
To see so many people who are so poor, living on less than one dollar a day, yet so happy to the core is beyond the grasp of many Americans. But in Mexico they do not believe that THINGS make you happy. Money doesn't make you happy, and no man or woman is about to go out and sell themselves out instead of having family time or time for themselves. This is a core belief. I was also surprised to learn that many people--rich or poor--participate in politics. This is a difference, according to Arturo, a man we spoke with. He says that the people of Mexico are very political, and that it is very important to them. In San Miguel, which is an ex-patriot community nestled in the mountains, there are also many native Mexican people. Arturo said, as he drove us to the thermal springs, "The Americans are building things here," he points, and a golf course is visible. "And they start with walls." This, Arturo says, is the first mistake. Americans always want to keep someone out. The Mexican people have a strong sense of community. They know their neighbors--even if they don't like them. They help one another. There is not so much of a hidden agenda; you will help your neighbor and you assume he will help you, and this is often the way things play out. The thing about America that I am personally having so much trouble with is precisely this: Where is my community???
I think that we can take a cue from the Mexican people. To be poor and happy is a luxury. It is an old addidage. But the saying holds true now. Through all this hardship--war, death, control, economics,etc.--are we any happier? Are our lives any more rich?? Do we know or help our communities with greater selflessness?? There are people helping one another out there. Here (headcount) is an example. But the thing that we need to sustain our life's happiness is a perpetuation of these beliefs. "Teach your children well" right? Teach eachother well....treat eachother well... We, as Americans need to begin to see ourselves as others see us; not through these drunk goggles we seem to be wearing.
It is my hope that through organizations like HeadCount, people can begin to wake up and care for themselves and eachother. I need that, and so does everyone else.