Senior at Camas High School, Christian Lenard, joined journalism because he was interested in improving his writing skills and becoming more involved with the news. He cares about (and enjoys) telling stories because he likes to inform people about what is going on and how it can affect everyone.
Here is Lenard’s story told from his perspective.
When my parents suggested a trip to the Dominican Republic for spring break during my sophomore year, I was excited to think of relaxing on the beach at a luxury resort. Much to my surprise, they had something completely different in mind. Instead of a vacation, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a mission/immersion trip. The area of the country I traveled to is extremely poor and has been frequently damaged by hurricanes and earthquakes over the past several years. Despite spending several months preparing for the trip with my group, I could not have imagined how completely different life is for these people than the life I have experienced in the United States.
I was moved by how welcoming and loving the people were, even to complete strangers from a foreign country. For a portion of the trip, I had the opportunity to stay in a family’s home and truly experience the culture firsthand. Although I had studied Spanish for three years, communicating was a challenge. Luckily, my basic understanding of the language allowed me to interpret and communicate simple concepts and conversations. The family treated me like one of their own and even gave up their bed for me.
As the week progressed, I began to realize that the people of the Dominican Republic were sincerely happy living with so little, and they show kindness and love to each other on a daily basis. They were appreciative of the simple, run-down homes and clothing they had. Clean water and food were especially cherished. Everyone looked out for the small children in the villages and provided assistance and support to each other, without judgment or criticism. It seemed perplexing to me that these people could be so joyful and loving while living lives that appeared to be filled with struggles.
Throughout my week of travel and work, I noticed how every citizen was present to help with our projects. We worked to replace a home that had been destroyed by a hurricane. The oppressive heat and humidity made our work exhausting, but the Dominicans never uttered a word of complaint. Instead, it was a time of celebration and appreciation for the funds and support we provided to build the home.
I finished my week in the Dominican Republic a changed person, with a new perspective on life. The happiness many Americans believe they will find by possessing material things does not compare to the happiness I observed in the Dominican people. Their contentment was not the result of what they had, but rather created by the love and support they had for their families, friends, and the entire community
My experience on this life-changing trip enabled me to grow emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually. The most valuable takeaway is the new perspective I gained for the world outside the United States. I realized that “our” way is not always the best way or the only way. The people of the Dominican Republic helped me more than I helped them. I look forward to future mission trips to continue my education and provide service for those in need. If I am lucky, next time I might even find time for that day at the beach.