I just got back from a mission trip in Nicaragua where I found the people to be incredibly warm, friendly and accepting. We were told beforehand not to try to impose the American culture on the Nicaraguan way but to accept their way of life and to work alongside them. The Nicas were very hard working and truly enjoyed our presence. This added so much to our experience.

They had very little, and in fact, Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America. Yet, with their ever-present smiles and glowing, happy faces, you would never know it. Nicaragua also has the lowest crime rate in Central America. Given the opportunity to stay in some of their homes, we came to realize that peace doesn’t come from having a beautiful home and joy doesn’t come from having the latest car or the best clothing. Instead, we discovered it comes from the basic essentials of food, shelter and love.

We worked hard at a camp for the Nicaraguan high schoolers that needed to be expanded because of its popularity. We worked on a retaining wall, helped to create paths up the mountains and into the jungle, did some painting, and learned how to grow coffee beans. All in all, we were able to encourage the Nicaraguans and help them build the things they needed most. And, in turn, they provided us with the chance to give back and appreciate their simple way of life.

So as I think about the things I need and not the things I want, I think about the candidates and the clients I’ve been fortunate to work with and recognize how lucky I am to have spent time with people who really understand what it means to have peace and be content with very little.

I’m thankful for my trip ─ and I’m thankful for my sore back ─ because I’ve become a better person through this experience.