Category Archives: Travel

5 Insights from Israel

by Kelvin Belfon

5-Insights-Israel-HolyLand

 

In the middle of March, I took my first pilgrimage to the nation of Israel.

Let me preface everything I’m about to say with this disclosure. I grew up hearing and reading Bible stories all my life. I even completed a Master’s degree that required a general knowledge of the Middle East. So, to actually get boots on the ground made the idea of going on this trip pretty epic.

While in Israel, I visited a number of historical and archeological sites. To name a few, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Sea of Galilee, The Mount of Olives, Masada, and Megiddo. I ate lots of authentic falafel and hummus and had a good time buying souvenirs at the markets.

One of the things that also made this trip pretty special was that I was leading a group of over 100 people along with my colleague, Micah. We’ve organized and gone on international trips in the past. But the size of our group and level of responsibility opened up new horizons for my leadership gift. It took months in planning meetings, Skype calls, emails, flight and hotel arrangements. In the end, it was all worth the tireless hours of preparation.

We had an amazing group of individuals on the trip. We learned new things, laughed, and sometimes shed tears of joy. The ten days were life changing.

I learned a lot on my tour of the Holy Land. However, here are 5 insights that stood out to me as we knocked about the city and countryside of Israel.

 

5 insights from Israel

Turn your desert into an oasis. In Israel, more than 50% of the terrain is desert. Because of this climate, a shortage in water supply makes farming very challenging. Yet the Israelis have somehow managed to transform their non-arable soil into a lush, green fertile oasis. Today Israel produces 95% of its own food, exporting many diverse crops to the rest of the world.

In the countryside I saw valleys covered with dates, mangoes, oranges and banana trees. There were fields of corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, and grapes. The sense of hopefulness that nourishes this enterprise was pretty well summarized by one of our tour guides who said, “The desert areas will bloom again!”

Such a statement led me to ponder the truth that directly follows from it. No matter how bleak things seem, we can actually overcome limitations, areas of barrenness, unproductivity and a sense of uselessness in our lives. Despite the setbacks of our past, we can become fruitful again. That’s something to be hopeful about.

Isaiah35-Desert-Bloom

Stop, rest and reflect. Everything shuts down for the celebration of Shabbat from 6pm Friday till 6pm on Saturday in Israel. It’s a time where Jews cease from their work and remember God.  It’s also a time for getting together with friends and family and to rest and personally reflect.

Whether you are religious or not, do you stop, rest and take time to reflect?

The notion of Sabbath has really challenged me to slow down from my busy schedule and allow time for recovery. Self-care is so important if one plans on being around for a long time. But also let’s take time to be present and spend quality time with our family and friends.

Remember, productivity happens not only in the things we do, but more importantly, as a result of the things we choose to leave undone.

When possible get a better deal. Inside the Old City of Jerusalem the 500-year-old streets are always bustling with people from everywhere. There are also history sites, such as the Via Dolorosa and Pool of Bethesda. You can explore international cuisine or shop for colorful textiles, Middle Eastern arts and crafts, and souvenirs of all sorts on every side of the streets.

The whole experience was invigorating!

Like other countries I’ve visited, I quickly had to shift from a western mindset and sharpen my negotiating skills while shopping. Visitors can pay more than full price for stuff if they don’t know how to handle themselves in these kinds of markets.

The first thing you have to know is that almost everything is negotiable in Israel. Merchants take no offense if shoppers are looking for bargain deals. In fact, they welcome haggling.

But let’s take our Middle Eastern haggling skills back to the US for a moment to talk about ways that it does apply. Why not ask for a price break on an item you find in a store that seems less than perfect? Why not call your car or home insurance company about a better rate? How about calling the credit card company to inquire about a lower interest rate or a courtesy debt reduction?

It never hurts to ask.

Be persistent. Never give up! Like them or not, Jewish people are resilient. As far back into antiquities as we may go, Jews have been captured, enslaved, persecuted, and murdered en masse by the Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Byzantines, Arabs, British, French, Spanish-Portuguese Crusaders, Mamelukes, Turks, and Germans. There’s even a fast day, Tisha B’av, that commemorates the various histories of destruction and hardships.

Yet each time the Jews have experienced setbacks, they find a way to start over. They’ve rebuilt…again and again, some 30 plus times! They just don’t give up, no matter the obstacles.

We are all facing our own set of challenges – a bankruptcy, limited finances, business failure, marriage break up, death of a loved one or a debilitating illness. An answer, solution or resolution might seem so far out there from where you are now.

But now is not the time to quite. Keep trying… again. Be persistent in trying until you can thrive again.

Hate is strong but love is even stronger. Adolf Hitler declared, “No one need be surprised if among our people the personification of the devil, as the symbol of all evil, assumes the living shape of the Jew.” This anti-semitic rhetoric ushered in a season of death for millions of men, women and children.

The time I spent at Yad Vashemu, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center, was emotional for me. I wept, especially after seeing the images of the innocent children who were massacred. The face of evil is real and it shows no sympathy.

In contrast to this sad walk through history, on the last day in Jerusalem, our group visited the Friend of Zion Museum. There, I was reminded of the good in ordinary men and women who have made a difference by sticking their necks out to save Jews. Such kind of heroes still exist around us. These are our parents, friends, spiritual leaders, teachers, first responders, members of the military, and…YOU.

The Friend of Zion Museum taught me how important it is to speak up for the voiceless in our local communities and around the world. It is no use to dwell in hopelessness when the possibilities lie before us to take action on behalf of the underrepresented.

It’s true…love conquers all!

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Going to Israel

by Kelvin Belfon

Going-to-Israel-Holy-Land

“When one door closes, another door opens, but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door, that we do not see the ones which open for us.” ~ Alexander Graham Bell

 

In 2003, before graduating college, my wife and I made plans to continue our graduate studies in the nation in Israel. Our goal was to immerse ourselves in the culture, learn the Hebrew language through the Rothberg International Institute at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. There we hoped to deepen our knowledge of the Jewish roots of Christianity.

It was an exciting prospect.

But our applications were disproved and we were left completely disappointed. The dream to visit the Holy Land ended and the idea placed on the shelf as life progressed with jobs, kids, and homes.

All the same, other much anticipated doors opened along the way.

One of them was our relocation to Central Florida. There I had some success working as a student pastor and my wife as a university professor. I cherished our memories there, as a place where we welcomed our first two children into the world. They’ve changed our lives.

But some dreams are not meant to die. Last May, my work colleague and I were approached about organizing a trip overseas. At first I thought the conversation was far-fetched until the destination of that trip was revealed. Yes, you guessed it…Israel.

It’s been 13 years and the opportunity looks a whole lot different this time around. I’m no longer a college student unaccountable to no one but my wife, living the high for the next big adventure. Because of the exploratory nature of the trip, I’ll help lead a group of close to 100 people through the Holy City for 10 days!

I can’t wait to experience Palestine – its culture, people, food, history and geography.

I’m grateful, oh so grateful, for this opportunity. Over the years, I’ve learned to accept doors when they close; but I’ve also learned how to appreciate the dynamic of a moment that opens up new opportunity in my life. Each have helped to form me into the man I am today.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I travel.

Shalom!

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The Best of Going Uncomplicated in 2015

by Kelvin Belfon

The Best of 2015

Season Greetings!

As we wrap up another year, I’d like to thank you for your support.

  • Thank you for engaging my articles
  • Thank you for sharing my blog posts with your family and friends
  • Thank you for commenting. I enjoy reading your thoughts too

A lot happened in 2015 for Going Uncomplicated and me. Two big events are noteworthy in my mind as I reflect on the year:

Living with Less in a Bigger Space. I thought my minimalist aspirations would cease after our family relocated to a much larger home. Bigger spaces can attract unwanted clutter. This can easily be the case for growing families with small children. But to my surprise, our de-cluttering efforts continued despite the size of our home. More possessions were purged this year as we continued to focus on those essential things that have meaning and value to our family. As our behavior maintained consistency in the habit of living with less, I began to come to the realization that being a minimalist isn’t defined by the square footage of your home. A tiny home can just as well be filled with excess and clutter. Conversely, a big home can consist mainly of what’s essential for comfort and a healthy family life. Minimalism is not a one-size-fit thing. Rather, it’s a mindset that is expressed differently depending on each household’s personality and culture.

Mama Africa: Highlights from my Trip to Uganda. In September, I was invited to participate in humanitarian efforts in Uganda. That transatlantic journey carried a lot of meaning for me. It was my first time on the continent of Africa. Experiencing the tropical climate, lush green vegetation, and variety of flavorful foods was a surreal experience for me. I could not help but compare how similar the environment was to my native home in the Caribbean. That said, I’d have to say that the highlight of that trip was the quality of hospitality and friendliness I sensed from the people I met. The Ugandans I met taught me important lessons that can be transferred to a minimalist mindset. Since that trip, I still have Uganda On My Mind. I can’t wait to return in the near future.

A Year of Blog Posts in Review

As for top Going Uncomplicated post, I’d like to share a list of articles that were meaningful to you in 2015:

Top Posts of 2015 (In order of popularity)

16 Decluttering Tips from The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

25 Thought Provoking Simplicity Quotes

7 Healthy Habits to Cultivate…Slowly

Living with Less in a Bigger Space

10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean with Children

Can We Learn Anything from Haiti?

8 Obstacles to Decluttering and What You Can Do

Raising Children in an Excess Age

Minimalist Marriage Advice for Newlyweds

Minimalists Interviews

The Simple White Rabbit: An Interview with Christy King

The Other Side of Complexity: An Interview with Mike Burns

My Guest Post

14 Ways Chores Can Benefit Your Children

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What’s New in the Coming Year

Going Uncomplicated is expanding in 2016. I’m excited about the following projects that I’ve been planning. You’ll hear more about them. But for now, here’s a quick peek at what I’ll be up to in the coming months:

  • Speaking Engagements
  • Personal Coaching
  • Start writing a simplicity book
  • Launching a webinar (launch date TBA soon)

Finally, is there a topic you’d like me to address in future posts? If so, please leave a comment below or send me an email to goinguncomplicated (at) gmail.com.

Thank you again for your support and Happy New Year!

Kelvin

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Uganda On My Mind

by Kelvin Belfon

Uganda-10-Things-Learned-Heroic

 

Uganda is a beautiful country!

In 1908, Winston Churchill said, “The kingdom of Uganda is a fairy-tale…The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and, most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa.”

Then Churchill concluded, “Uganda is truly the pear of Africa.”

Several features make Uganda a unique home:

Home to 11% of birds found in the world

Home to a significant segment of Africa’s largest lake – Lake Victoria

Home to the source of the Nile River – one of the 7 natural wonders of Africa

Home to the Tallest Mountain Range in Africa – The Rwenzori Mountains or Mountains of the Moon

Home to over half of all of Mountain Gorillas in the world

Home to more butterflies of varying colors than any other East African Country

Home to over 50 varieties of bananas, Ugandans consume more bananas than any other nation in the world outside of Brazil!

But as mentioned in Mama Africa: Highlights from my trip to Uganda, of all the things I enjoyed about Uganda, its people topped my list. They are a friendly people. And because their culture emphasizes hospitality, they are not only welcoming to travelers, significantly, they care for their own!

I had the opportunity to meet a young lady called Sherifah. She had been abandoned by her husband and forsaken by her family. She had little food and lived in a mud hut that was falling apart with no door, no furniture and not even a bed.

Sherifah is blind and has four children.

But a young man named William reached out and became her advocate and protector. Through the HFF Sherifah received a new home and now lives in safety with her children.

This family’s life changed because someone cared. Sherifah’s story, in my mind, fits into the category of special. In a world where people are often too preoccupied with their own problems, it would be easy to overlook a poor, blind mother of four.

To go the extra mile in committing oneself to looking out for Sherifah is a question of compassion, human consciousness and ethics. William shines in my mind as a hero.

 

Sherifah-I-Uganda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Heroic Habits I Observed in Uganda

1. Speak up for the voiceless. There are needs all around us. We can show charity to people even in our own “backyard.” Advocate for the unpopular, outcast, discriminated and persecuted.

2. We can do more when we collaborate. In Uganda, The Lone Rangers rarely succeed. There is strength in community. Instead of competing, consider networking with others. Build healthy friendships and teams. When possible, don’t burn bridges.

3. Show your appreciation. One of the families we saw started cooking for us around four in the morning. They rented a small tent and chairs for our comfort. They went the extra mile decorating the table with flowers and their children sang for us. Saying “thank you” would have been what we might have anticipated.

We had come to Uganda with a significant amount of gifts. But what will make this family stand out in my mind for years to come, is how they used their everyday resources to show how much our presence meant to them.

4. Give people a hand-up. Giving people money or gifts is a very basic way of showing compassion. But if unchecked, being someone’s financial benefactor can also harbor laziness, dependency, and can quickly lead to abuse.

A more sustainable approach may be to empower people to turn resources into financial gains so that they can achieve independence and self-sufficiency. Self-worth and a sense of competence increases when people learn to do things themselves.

5. Be content with what you have. We don’t always need the next best thing if we can’t afford the payments. Practice restraint and learn to enjoy certain possessions till they wear out. It’s not only good for your budget but also for the environment.

6. Never despise small beginnings. High School graduate Britney Forsteid met a friendly waiter named Jackson in Kirugu, Uganda. The two had several casual conversations and “exchanged hopes, dreams, smiles and laughter.” Several months later the Mount of Olives Nursery Primary School was birthed with over 400 children enrolled today! Your dreams are never too small.

7. Leave your mark on the planet. What will be your legacy? Will others miss you when you’re gone? Our time on earth is limited. So avoid trivial pursuits and do something significant using your talents and abilities for good.

8. Respect your elders. In Uganda, the government recognizes individuals over 60 years. Some of these individuals are active in the public affairs of their communities. The system is not a perfect one; but it was refreshing to see the younger generation honor and defer to their elders for wisdom.

9. A determined woman is a powerful force. The women’s entrepreneurial group I visited started because they wanted to help support their families and send their children to school.  The group turned a few hours of business coaching and a $1,000 U.S. gift into a tent and chair rental business.

In addition, the group doubled in sized from 35 to 70 members. From their revenue, they now extend small business microloans to their members. Oh, their account balance is now over  $4,000 U.S!

10. There is always a way. I heard the ice cream van sound effect while descending the hills of Mpigi. In the rearview mirror was a man on a motorcycle. He passed our vehicle and stopped ahead to sell his refreshing ice cream to passer-bys. Success is sometimes unorthodox. It involves vision, creativity and hard work.

What other habits would you add to the list?

 

Sherifah-Old-House-Side View-Uganda

 

Sherifah-Old-House-Bedroom-Uganda

 

Sherifah-New-House-Uganda

 

Sherifah-New-House-Bedroom-Uganda

 

Ice-Cream-Man-Uganda

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Mama Africa: Highlights from my Trip to Uganda

by Kelvin Belfon

Mama Africa

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

 

I had a wonderful experience in Uganda.

The lush green tropical vegetation was picturesque. The food was amazing! It was fresh, colorful and flavorful. But most of all, the people were beautiful. They were kind, friendly, and hospitable.

Our main assignment was commissioning the Mount of Olive Primary School in Kirugu, Uganda built by the Hoffman Family Foundation (HFF). The new, larger two-story facility will house over 400 students.

We encouraged and trained a group of entrepreneurial women. There were 70 women present who had previously started their own businesses to support their families. The story of what they did with just a small micro-loan is a remarkable.

Throughout my time in Uganda, our group drove many miles to see several different schools as well as sanitary and water projects.

But the highlight of my trip was visiting the children supported by HFF. Their smiles brought tears to my eyes because I was once their shoe. For a very significant part of my youth, I lived without my biological father or mother. But people, in most cases strangers, rallied around and helped me get what was necessary for living accommodations and an education.

This first trip to mama Africa has created memories that will live on. I’m grateful for the invitation. I was deeply inspired. I ate, played, laughed and cried. I grew.

I do plan to continue traveling as the opportunity becomes available. I hope Uganda is a very real part of that plan. International travel is a passion of mine. I enjoy learning new things from other cultures, serving and empowering others.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who expressed their thoughts and offered prayers over my travel. I appreciate your many comments and Facebook messages.
I will share more about Uganda in upcoming posts. For now, enjoy a few of my favorite pictures below.

Uganda-City-Kampala

Uganda-Driving-Kampala

Uganda-Mt Olives-Old

Uganda-Mt Olives-Old-School

Uganda-Mt Olives-New-School

Students-Grand-Opening-Uganda

A-handsome-youngman-Uganda

Uganda-Mt Olives-Children-Cake

Uganda-Food-Dish

Uganda-Children-Fun

Uganda-Kampala-Festival-Bayimba

Uganda-Guy-Recycle

Women-Empowerment-Uganda

Uganda-Guys-Motorcycle

Uganda-School-EWALDI

 

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Going to Africa

by Kelvin Belfon

going-africa-Caribbean-black

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

 

Over the years, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to do missionary and humanitarian work in other countries. I love meeting new people and learning about their culture in the process.

This trip, this time is different.

Hundreds of years ago, some of my ancestors made the Trans-Atlantic journey from Africa to the Caribbean under very different circumstances. For so many different reasons, the dream of going to Africa has held a very special place in my heart ever since I was a young man growing up in the Grenada.

Even now living in the United States, married with children, a job and numerous responsibilities, I never thought it would happen, at least not anytime soon.

In a few hours I will begin a brief, but much anticipated journey back to Africa. I will land in Kampala, Uganda. There I’ll be working with the Hoffman Family Foundation. Through the Foundation, a school that accommodates  approximately 500 children was built. The grand opening ceremony will be this Thursday.

I’m excited to be invited to participate in such an important occasion. I can’t wait.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

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10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean with Children

by Kelvin Belfon

Keeping Your Car Clean

I enjoy driving a clean car.

But my expectations have drastically changed since the addition of our four children.

Over the last 2 years, my children have decisively marked their territory in the backseat of our car with toys, leftover food, snacks crumbs, dishes, clothing, books, crayons, paper, rocks, stickers, unfinished experiments, and all such things required in their world.

I know that for them, everything is in its necessary place, but from my perspective, it just looks like a dump, like the aftermath of a hurricane. Going back there to access the damages from week to week can be pretty disturbing for someone like me.

Our cars were a never-ending nightmare to keep clean. After spending a good chunk of time cleaning, vacuuming and wiping down the seats, my heart would sink in disappointment and frustration when after just 3 days the warzone would return with a vengeance.

I’ve had far less problem tidying up and de-cluttering our home; but our cars…! They just seem to be my kryptonite.

I’ve been tempted quite a bit to raise the proverbial white flag and surrender in defeat. I had the right excuses too: I’m a busy parent of 4 small children. It’s winter, extra muck is to be expected. Carwashes can add up to an extra, avoidable budget expense! Everyone will understand. Some won’t even care or notice, right?

But recently I decided to regain control and conquer this Achilles heel. First, I gave the car a thorough cleaning with both my 4 and 7-years helping out. Then we had a short family meeting. Yes, I included our 12-month-old twins in there too, but they gave no input!

It’s been almost 2 months. The exterior of our vehicle is in need of a wash but the interior remains significantly improved. The frustration is now at a minimum. And I’m less freaked out.

 

Keeping Your Car Clean_vanquotepic

 

10 Tips for Keeping Your Car Clean with Children

1. Avoid food in the car. As parents, we are always rushing from one event to the other. So snacking in the car is a normal routine. But if you can, don’t make it the norm. Reserve food in the car for emergencies only. Resist the habit and you’ll win every time.

2. Provide a home for the trash. This was the game changer. I’m not sure why it took me so long to adapt. Each child has a plastic grocery bags to dump trash in. Professional trash bags for cars are also available if you want a fancier look.

3. Empty the trash when you refuel. This is a handy tip used by lots of parents. But even better, every time we get home, we do inventory and the kids pick up their space before leaving the car. This will help avoid bad odors and garbage building up.

4. Keep toys to a minimum. Toys will clutter your car in a heartbeat. This will happen if your kids treat your vehicle like their entertainment hub. Encourage conversation and sightseeing as alternate activities. This will also help improve their attention span. Another big reason to limit or even eliminate toys is because they can become dangerous projectiles in the event of a sudden stop or accident.

5. Follow the clean car golden rule. What goes in, must go out! That is, if your children bring something in the car like a toy, coat or book…at the end of the day, they must put it back where it belongs.

6. Use a seat organizer. Seat organizers are great for helping keep things in their rightful place. Some may also protect your leather seats from showing prints as well. But avoid the tendency to store all the possible non-essentials you can find in your seat organizer, or you’ll be defeating the purpose and committing the same crime you wish to reform your kids from.

7. Wipe-up during downtime. You are sitting in the school line waiting for your kids or at the park watching them play…quickly use a wet wipe to dust off the dashboard or clean up a spill. Regular cleaning intervals will reduce the need for a major car wash project.

8. Enlist your children. Put your little ones to work. It will help reinforce the idea that they need to own the damage they do to their space. Moreover, use the occasion as another opportunity to connect with your child.

9. Use an air freshener! This will keep funky sports equipment odors at bay. Use the ones that eliminate bad odor and not just compound bad odors with perfumes.

10. Schedule monthly cleaning. Your vehicle can still accumulate trash or crumbs despite all the aforementioned. So once or twice a month, take some time to give your vehicle a proper clean. The good news is, it won’t be a war zone at this point.

It’s unrealistic to have a spotless car at all time when you have children. Be reasonable, messes and spills will happen. In our home, we also adjust during certain seasons, like snowy winters. But still, you don’t have to succumb to the helpless parent syndrome like I did. You can take proactive steps!

We are always teaching and modeling behavior as parents. What we allow in moderation, our children will do in excess. Be consistent, intentional and in the process you’ll be helping your child for years to come.

What other tips do you use to keep your car clean?

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Can We Learn Anything from Haiti?

by Kelvin Belfon

Can we learn anything Haiti_image

In early December last year, I took a trip to Haiti. It was an 8-day thought shifting experience! The people and culture there reminded me of the things I love about growing up on my island, Grenada. In many ways it felt like going home.

Susie Krabacher, the co-founder of Mercy and Sharing hosted Micah, a work colleague and me. This non-profit organization has provided care and education for the abandoned, orphaned and disabled children in Haiti for the last 20 years.

Our schedule included touring the schools in Port-au-Prince and Cité Soleil. In the town of Williamson, we visited an orphanage, school and trade center. Then we hiked into the remote hills where we visited children and widows in that village.

Last, we flew to Cap-Haitian, located to the northern part of the island. There we marveled as we watched in full operation Mercy and Sharing’s feeding program that supports over 900 people every day.

As we walked along the earthen pathways, it was hard not to be submerged in sadness for the people, who by First World standards, would be viewed as destitute. The 200 Haitians employed by Mercy and Sharing are the true heroes. Together they care for over 5,000 people in various capacities!

 

It would be easy to lose hope!

The needs in Haiti are overwhelming.

  • Haiti is considered the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
  • About 80% of the population lives in abject poverty (making less than $2.00 USD per day).
  • The Life expectancy is 57 years.
  • Less than 50% the population is literate.
  • Only 25% of the population has access to sanitary water.*

Haiti have also experienced several natural disasters, like the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed over 230 people and displacing 1.5 million in 2007.

In sum, it would be easy for anyone in Haiti to complain about living in such a deplorable condition, and many do. Life on the island for most is tough. But I also met many people who were resilient and filled with hope and joy.

I went to support, but very quickly the roles were reversed. The Haitian people inspired me. Their fortitude and determination were exemplary. I observed their behavior in the crags of crisis and heard their stories. In the process I learned a few lessons I’d like to share with you today.

 

Cap Haitian_image

 

Things I learned in Haiti

  • Smile! No matter how bleak your situation might seem. You may lose everything but never lose your smile.
  • Hustle, hustle, hustle. Too many of us give up so easy after the first “No.” Haitians are known for finding alternate means to make things happen. Avoid excuses, explore your options, and put in some extra time. Fight for your dreams. It’s time to hustle!
  • I’m the solution. It’s not up to the government, your employer, friend or family member to bail you out. Be the solution to your problem. In the process you’ll succeed. Someone said that people who learn to solve problems will prosper.
  • Greed is universal. Yes, even people in a poor nation can be materialistic and accumulate junk they don’t need. We all desire more. Greed is a human condition that affects the rich and the poor. So guard your heart against extremes.
  • Recycle. In Haiti most people don’t have the luxury of changing their wardrobe every 6 months or buying a new car because it’s over 60,000 miles. Use your possessions to the fullest. Be creative and re-purpose for your possessions when possible.
  • Start something. The sidewalks of Port-au-Prince are filled local merchants. Everyone is selling something! In the United States, we have more resources and opportunities. So I asked myself, “Why not me? Why not you? Now!” Write the book, open your dream store, or start an online business. Be entrepreneurial.
  • Contentment is possible even when you own little. There is nothing wrong in owning really nice things. The problem is when we continually want more and more things as a source of happiness. Did you eat today? Did you sleep in a building with insulation and doors? Learn to be content with what you have no matter how little it might seem.
  • Love yourself. Your self-worth should never be motivated by the size of your bank account. Even with little you can make yourself presentable and gain the respect of others. Be proud and walk with your head up high.
  • We all have something to give. Giving a financial gift can make an immediate impact in someone’s life. I give regularly. But giving money is not the only way. In Haiti, the Mercy and Sharing staff give sincere smiles, motherly kisses, heartfelt embraces, verbal affirmations, and their time to children they serve.
  • Be grateful. Appreciate what you do have such as your life, self-worth, character, health, family and other valuable relationships. No matter how depressing our situation might appear, we can always find something in our life we can be grateful for.

How about you? Have you learned something by observing another culture or just by the way other people live their lives who are less fortunate than you?

 

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Why the Outdoors is Good for You

by Kelvin Belfon

Why the Outdoors is Good_image2

About 3 months ago, my wife and I were giving our friend Bonnie a ride home. It was a beautiful day in Denver, Colorado. The mountains were dark green and capped in white against the deep blue sky. The scene was picturesque.

In unison we said to Bonnie, “Oh, look at the mountains. How beautiful!”

To our surprise, she responded, “What about them?” We proceeded to explain how fascinating it was that the mountains seem to have a different personality every day; and, as such, looked different every day.

Bonnie looked out the car window and said, “I’ve never noticed them before.” Bonnie is a 12-year resident of Denver.

I’m always amazed how many of us fail to notice and enjoy the natural beauty that exists around us. Just this Fall season alone, I’ve observed…

  • Yellowish / bright orangish sunrises
  • The brisk, fresh morning dew
  • Varicolored butterfly landing among a bouquet of flowers
  • The sound of running water in a creek, birds chirping, and wind passing between trees, and so on.

My love for the outdoors started in Grenada as a child. We played outside quite a bit. Our teachers sometimes held class outside under trees. We spent hours at the beach, did our laundry in the river, and had cookouts…all outdoors.

Since moving to the US, I’ve had the opportunity to live and visit multiple metropolitan cities like the New York, Boston, Miami, San Francisco, and now Denver. The social life, culture and infrastructures in more populated cities are unparallel.

Yet each time, I find myself craving for the outdoors. I can’t escape the longing to discover life beyond the four walls of my home to see the green foliage, look into the deep blue sky and stare at the stars at night. And the older I become, the more important this becomes to me.

Why the outdoors is good for you?

Fall_Leavesimage by: Quest Demy

It relaxes our body. The outdoors clears the mind, relaxes the body and reduces anxiety after a long day. Scientific studies show a lower level of cortisol (a hormone that indicates stress) when people go outside on a nature therapy.

It improves our health. A short walk can do wonders to our health. The fresh air increases oxygen to our brain and sunlight our vitamin D intake for FREE! The lack of vitamin D is known to cause cancer, inflammation, and weaker immune system.

It increases our energy. Stepping outdoors invigorates the mind and body. That’s because increased activity releases endorphins that are known to boost energy and combat “mental fatigue.” We also sleep better when we are more active during the awake hours.

It reduces depression. Stepping outside triggers a sense of awe, gratitude and a positive outlook of life. As a natural consequence, such moments remind us of the things that are most important.

It stimulates creativity and imagination. The outdoors sharpens our thinking, helps us dream, concentrate (this is especially the case in children after a walk in the park), and restores our memory.

It’s educational, beautiful and free!

Going outdoors doesn’t have to be complicated. Keep it simple! Do some gardening over the weekend or enjoy the animals in your backyard like my friend Marshall in Florida does.

Step outside your house or apartment to explore your neighborhood and downtown. Visit a park, people watch, jog or go cycling. Take a walk on the beach, for all my island and east-west coast friends.

Spend your break time outside the office. Eat lunch on the grass or walking around the building.

Take your children on an outdoor adventure. Play, smile, laugh, take pictures or do 1 of the 15 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors This Fall.

Fall is a beautiful season. The leaves change their colors and the temperature is just right for outdoor exploring. So challenge yourself. Disconnect from your social media and electronic devices for a few hours per day.

Go outside. Relax, breathe and enjoy. Your body will thank you for it!

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