Although Mexico has less wealth than the United States, I have found myself experiencing greater degrees of abundance here than I ever did back home. Life is celebrated regularly, and I’ve found myself the recipient of great generosity, both from expats and Mexicans alike. It’s almost like generosity is a way of life here, instead of a single act or gift that is only given on occasion.
This past week a pre-Easter procession filled the streets of the town in the early morning hours, as pilgrims who had been walking all night from a neighboring village made their way into San Miguel. People lined the streets not just to watch, but set out tables in front of their homes offering the pilgrims hot drinks and food. This act of generosity and hospitality touched my heart.
Living in Mexico has been a good reminder of the truth that abundance is not tied to material wealth. In fact, one could argue that the greater your material wealth, the more likely you are to suffer from a lack of abundance. The more time I spend away from the U.S., the more I realize that it is a country quite poor in what truly matters. And a poverty of spirit is no different than physical poverty ~ it’s just that its focal point is the soul, not the body.
Over the years as I’ve traveled to second and third world countries, I have observed over and over again that those who have fewer material resources enjoy greater quantities of what truly matters in life. And in this, they are great teachers for the rest of us. But too often, those of us who have grown up with material wealth are not trained to look at the world this way. We’ve been taught to see those the world designates as “poor” as people to help, people to be charitable towards, but not as people who possess true abundance. However, the world offers us many teachers waiting to show us the way, waiting to remind us of what real abundance is. For we need help in seeing clearly again. We need to change our paradigm of what true wealth is.
I just read this Medium piece on Silicon Valley, which could be described as the epicenter (or at least an epicenter) of material wealth in the States. The author grew up in the Valley and works at Google, and so speaks from life experience. She describes the degree of soullessness she feels there, and talks about the rampant mental health issues that plagued so many of her high school peers in her youth, despite the fact that they had access to every resource imaginable.
If that doesn’t give you pause, it should. Poverty is not just a physical ailment, it is a spiritual one. Material wealth has a very real propensity to deaden our faculties and numb our souls. Those without wealth help us re-examine our relationship with it, and provide the vision we need to choose a life that is lived in service to something other than its pursuit.