If you’ve heard anything about Honduras, or specifically the capital of Tegucigalpa, I’d be willing to bet the dangerously short runway at the airport or the elevated crime rate has caught your ear.
Maybe others can speak of the video game-esque racing that occurs on roads, where if your right arm isn’t sore from honking at the end of the day you’re doing something wrong. Also, they fielded a World Cup team that had an abbreviated stay in Brasil, and a crazily high percentage of the cocaine in U.S. makes its way through Honduras on the way.
Sure there is truth to these, but if that’s all you’ve heard you’re missing out.
You’re missing the natural, innocent beauty of its landscape, mountains, and city wedged into the valley and climbing the hillsides, but most of all the people. The children.
So naive and innocent. Overwhelmingly poor, yet unexplainably joyful. Smiles on the faces, with seemingly no reason to be joyful… at least by our standards. I’m not sure we can really understand this dynamic in America, but I think it’s helpful to try.
I had the opportunity this past week to be in Honduras building houses, working in a dental clinic, and hanging with the locals.
A trip of this sort comes with an automatic roller coaster of emotions, as the joy of building a house for a family they’ll sleep in that night and helping with a physical need of a toothache contrasts with poverty stricken people at every glance.
What stood out to me most was the attitudes of the Hondurans, a lot of them in circumstances we couldn’t dare imagine.
The first day we took a schoolbus to the site of the first house we would build, up to the hillside of a community called Dia Monte.
Literally as we entered the village, the children sprinted after the bus until we reached our destination.
Upon starting the first house, I realized my hammer was constantly being beat to my nail by another… from a young Honduran (5 years old) dressed in all red, named Axel. He and his younger brother Estavo were our two biggest helpers that day and always had a smile on their face.
Later I learned that these two boys and their mom had a house built for them a couple of months ago by a similar mission group, and since then whenever a house was being built in their village they always helped out… and I say helped out loosely, as in they did tons of work. I was the one learning from Axel’s carpentry techniques- not vice versa.
When you don’t have much, you can either appreciate the little things or constantly want more. There’s always exceptions, but the Hondurans appreciate even the smallest of things. A smile. Taking a picture with them. A couple of questions in elementary Español. Family. A couple of house-warming gifts like plastic chairs and towels, or getting a painful tooth pulled.
One woman used a couple of her new house-warming gifts and supplies to turn right around a cook spaghetti for some of our group.
Taking a break from house-building one afternoon, we took a soccer ball and began playing keep away with a few kids still in their school uniforms. About an hour and a lot of dirt on our clothes later, the game remained. Same ball. Same smiles. Beautiful in it’s simplicity and carelessness, a welcomed break from reality.
A wise man once told me many times that “little things become big things.” In a country where there aren’t many “big things” to boast about, at least by American standards, I think it’s easier to see that the little things stand out that much more.
In a city filled with so much crime and abundant poverty, the government controversially chose to spend millions on a huge Jesus statue overlooking the city– to give Hondurans something, someone, to look up to in the midst of their situation. I think we could all use this reminder that there are much bigger things than our current circumstances.