24 May It’s Time to Change Your Perspective
Several years ago I flew to Ghana, Africa on a mission trip. Spending a few days in a third world country jolted me into a completely different way of thinking. It helped me to see the world from a new lens and it has drastically changed my perspective on life, on gratitude, and on my daily life. Having spent my entire life in cities and countrysides that have infrastructure, access to healthcare, bathrooms, and food (and a lot of food I’ve seen wasted), I was seeing the world through rose-colored glasses.
In Ghana, I saw children walking around without clothes. I looked into their little eyes and could see that their Number 1 concern was wondering where their next meal would come from. For the most part, they had no toys. I had flashbacks to the closet full of overflowing toy boxes full of toys that were unplayed with, waiting at home for my children. There were a couple of children with a small wheel carved out of wood that they pushed around with a stick. Some of the luckier ones had a soccer ball that 50-70 village kids ALL had to share. Disabled children were basically on their own and lacked wheelchairs for mobility. Blind children didn’t have access to special schools where they could go to learn.
It’s All How You Look at Things
We headed to a village in the innermost parts of Ghana. There were six of us that we packed into a small SUV. As we encountered people on the grassy trail that we were driving on, we would stop and pick them up. We passed by old cars that had been deserted. If a vehicle breaks down, people just get out and walk. The vehicle stays on the path and the road gets re-routed to make a new grassy trail. By the time we arrived in the village, there were over 20 people crammed into the SUV, some hanging out the door with it left ajar. It was funny to us Americans that when asked if there was still room, the Ghanaians would say, “Sure, lots of room”, and we Americans would say, “No, we are all full”. It was really a matter of perspective. To them, why would they ever make anyone walk when they could squeeze even one more person into the back end of the SUV.
Crammed into an SUV with 20 people, all lacking deodorant and the luxuries of daily showers, I realized that we live in a kingdom of wealth and plenty. I realized that I have been blessed beyond what I even realized. I recognized that the portrait television painted of wealth and plenty was really an oversold dream, and that I already lived in my own ‘story of the rich and famous’. I just hadn’t realized it at the time.
I saw very few women my own age; most had died prior to reaching their mid to late thirties. I witnessed villages with no running water or access to water anywhere nearby. Through a translator, I talked to a young woman who walked four miles several times a day to a place to get water, then she would carry it back on her head for her family. The living huts that they slept in had no beds or furniture whatsoever. They had one room, with dirt floors and branch roofs. The area was considered ‘open range’. This meant that you could squat anywhere to use the bathroom, since there were no facilities. There was a group of about 20 village children that would follow me ‘out into the wild’ when I needed to “use a bathroom”. It took me a bit to be comfortable peeing with a crowd watching. I did encounter a few villages that had built a ‘covering’ out of palm branches, but it was not the norm.
I held a child in my arms that was surprisingly 23 months old that looked as if she was eight or nine months due to her small size. I remembered what my daughter looked like at the same age. We were on mission, taking vitamins and medical supplies to these remote villages. This child in my arms was dying of starvation. Her little stomach was protruding as were several of the children I saw in those villages.
A Little Perspective
All that the people could talk about constantly was how great their lives would be if they lived in the United States. It was their promised land. They had seen the pictures, and had lived their entire lives wishing they could live in the United States–the “great land of plenty”. I realized that I could be homeless in America, and I would be better off than most of the people that I met on that trip. In Ghana. In the United States, I would have access to healthcare. I would have access to shelters. There would be people that could help me, if I wanted help. I could find running water, and bathrooms. There would be drinking water aplenty. I would not die of Malaria because I didn’t have the $1 that it took to buy the medication.
Somehow when I think about my time in Africa, I am brought back to a new reality. I have a changed perspective. I can face situations and circumstances without being jarred into complete frustration. I can look at business frustrations through new eyes. Regardless of how difficult the situation seems, no one is going to die from it. No one will starve to death. People are not losing their lives because they make one bad decision. Or at least, this is true for most of us. I recognize that for some in direct patient care, decisions can affect lives. I challenge you to see how you can view your life from a different perspective. Look around at the bigger picture. Are you seeing the WHOLE picture and evaluating the right perspective? Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “you can change your circumstances by changing your attitude”. Let’s try to do JUST THAT!
Bethany Williams is a seasoned healthcare IT executive and Senior Vice President of Product for NextStep Solutions. She is a results-oriented avid intrapreneur, product and business developer, and healthcare strategist, known as a ‘brand builder’ for her insightful and unique abilities to build products and considerably expand footprint and market share. She works as a catalyst for change in organizations; igniting new direction and positive change. This blog contains excerpts from her book, Winning Strategies for Women.