For a dozen years, I make an annual January trip to Managua, Nicaragua. While many go as tourists and many Americans are ex-pats, I go for another reason.

I go to help poor people.

I go with a talented and devoted team of doctors, pharmacists, dentists, and helpers from Health Talents International. We conduct mobile medical clinics in areas where the need for medical attention is lacking. All are poor, and all are less than standard American conditions.

While there I oversee a work of our church called Breakfast for Children. Its goal is to feed impoverished children in Managua a hot breakfast at least once a week. The trip gives me a “boots on

the ground” view of the workings of the program.

The trip is hard. Often, travel is long and bumpy roads in a 15 passenger van and doesn’t do much for your backside. The days are long, and the atmosphere is hot and dirty.

Accommodations are not Motel 6 but more Motel 3. The beds are harder than at home. Hot water? What is that? Don’t even ask about the plumbing!

Why, then, carve out a week of your life to make the journey? Here is what I get out of it.

I get to realize there is a world out there. One of the problems of American society is to believe America is the only world. It is a wonderful place, and I would not trade living here for anything, but there is a different world.

The people are like me and very different than me. This perception keeps me looking around.

I discover how blessed I am. I come back home every year with a greater appreciation for little things like soft sheets and hot water.

The tragedy of a lot of lives is they are in a constant state of want. They want more money, the newest gadget, and a bigger house. I come back, and contentment settles into my heart as my body sinks into the sheets. In short, it is better than Thanksgiving.

I better understand the nature of giving. Gretchen Rubin has written that the way to be happy is to give to another…and there best thing to give to another is to be happy.

I fear we substitute writing a check to a charity for real giving. Giving is not about what you have, but what you are. When you give you, it’s worth more than how much you can give.

I am back for another year and planning my next trip. I wanted to say thank you to my teammates for the love and dedication they show. Perhaps God smiles on us all as we stagger wearily off the plane.

I hope you can have an experience like it once in your life!