Before the weekend rolled around, a coworker recommended a documentary on Netflix for me to watch. It was called Living on One Dollar. Without even reading the description, I booted up my computer and launched Netflix. To give you a description of it though so you know the context of this post…it’s about 2 college guys (Zach and Chris) and 2 videographers from Southern California who decide to spend their summer in a remote and very impoverished area in Guatemala to find out what happens when people stop being polite…and start getting real. Whoops sorry, wrong show. They decided to do this in order to experience what it’s like for people who barely make $1 a day, don’t always know where their next paycheck is going to come from and can’t even afford the basic medical care their country has to offer.
Through the first 15 minutes or so, I was admittedly a little skeptical. I thought, “here we go, a show about 2 middle class white guys that are going to spend their summer vacation seeing how some of the world’s poorest people live and then they’ll go back to their hoity toity house and forget all about it, while these people don’t have that option.” But it actually turned out to be much more than that. Yes, they did leave at the end of their summer and resume their lives in California…a fact they were more than willing to cop to at the end. The greatest part of the documentary though wasn’t even really about them or their experience in Pena Blanca (though poor Chris did get pretty sick a few weeks in and they all looked pretty scarce by the end). The greatest part though were the people they interviewed that lived in the town. Beautiful, vibrant people who welcomed these complete strangers into their home. Who cooked for them when they barely had enough to feed their own families. They lived in houses without even fully functioning roofs in most cases and dirt floors. They didn’t have beds. They didn’t have running water or any source for warmth or air conditioning. Anthony, the only man in the town who had a steady job, is 24 years old with a 20 year old wife and several kids of their own. When the wife of their neighbor, who hadn’t been able to find work even as a day laborer out in the fields, fell ill and very nearly died, Anthony lent them the money to be able to buy her the life saving medicine she needed even though he still had very little money himself.
I live in the U.S., a place I feel very lucky to live in. But it is also a capitalistic society often driven by the need to consume and to buy buy buy. To always want more more more. Advertising bombards us from all sides telling us we need that new car, that those clothes will make people love us, that stuff will somehow fill the void. I’m just as guilty of consuming myself. I always feel like if I had that one thing for my room, then I would be content. If I have the cutest clothes, then I’ll be set. I always want want want. At the same time, I’m also always aware that there are people right here in our very own country that don’t know where their next meal is going to come from, that don’t have even a leaky roof over their heads. It’s never lost on me that I’m extremely grateful to have all that I have, right down to being able to take a shower every day.
This documentary really gave me an even bigger change of heart though. There are really so few things that I actually need in my life. Water, food, shelter, friends and family…that’s pretty much it. Am I still going to shop sometimes? Yes. I think it would be unrealistic to say I’ll never buy another piece of clothing again. But now, every time I go to buy something, or get that feeling that starts to bubble inside of me that I “need” this or that, I remind myself of those smiling faces in Guatemala. I remind myself that I have everything I need and plenty to be thankful for. It sounds arrogant to say that the plight of impoverished families in a remote area of Guatemala woke me up to my own spending habits or what I really need and don’t need, but I reveal this revelation only with the utmost love and respect.
The guys even set up a webpage where we can all learn how to help the families in the documentary and the cause as a whole. I’m on the list to buy a shirt for Rosa so she can go to nursing school just like she always dreamed of before she had to start working in the fields as a young girl to support her family.
To check out the documentary on Netflix and to find out how you can help, check out these links: