The Joy That Is Jamaica
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The very first time I set foot on the island of Jamaica, I felt like a different person.
I felt light and airy. I felt relaxed. I had no physical pain. I simply felt happy. And I didn’t really know why. I had the sense that I had come home after a lifetime of moving, traveling, struggling and trying to find my place in this world.
Have you ever had that feeling of going someplace completely outside your normal realm yet finding you felt as if you’ve always been there?
It doesn’t originate from one “thing” that you see or do. It’s as if your scattered senses, battered by the forces of this world, come into alignment and suddenly “you know.” You know you are where you are supposed to be.
When I came back to the states and tried to explain how the trip “felt,” people brushed aside my remarks. They said that I was simply enamored because I left the snow and went to the tropics for a while. I had stayed in an all-inclusive resort where I didn’t have to lift a finger, except to put food into my mouth or drinks to my lips. Who wouldn’t “love” that?
For me, it ran much deeper. Jamaica had a “happiness” in the air.
Sure, the guests were eating, drinking and causing merriment, but I noticed it more in the staff. The servers at meals not only had us laughing and smiling, but I noticed them cracking each other up behind the scenes. They seemed to actually enjoy what they were doing.
I noticed smiles on the maids faces as singing and laughter passed between them. The crew that took us on our sunset cruise was absolute joy personified. Even a gardener at the resort exuded pride as he explained that the beautifully landscaped area we were standing in was his handiwork. Everywhere you looked, the buildings seemed jolly, wearing their coats of many colors! Joy was everywhere and it was contagious.
Later, I was invited to come down and teach cheese making classes to a women’s group, and then again as I stayed with a new friend from that class. I saw this scene repeated over and over. Laughter, joy and thankfulness over simple things ruled the days. It was a “let’s dance in the rain” sort of attitude. Didn’t we all have that as kids?
Most of us live in a world of luxury compared to the average Jamaican.
We have so many amazing things we take for granted, and yet, many of us are still searching for “that thing” or “that moment” that will leave us feeling fulfilled and “happy.”
I’ve participated in the simple pleasures of preparing a Jamaican meal with friends over a coal fire on a “grill” made from the rim of a car and some rebar.
I’ve peered out of the bedroom window early in the morning to see my friend, still in her nightgown, enjoying the mangos growing in her yard. I’ve watched a 12 year old Jamaican girl squeal with joy as we took her swimming in the ocean for the first time in her life. Simple pleasures bound our hearts together.
Some people in Jamaica live in houses with no doors or windows. AC? Huh? Indoor plumbing? Not always. Many do not even own a proper stove or have an actual kitchen, preparing and cooking every meal outdoors. Cinderblock or scrap wood houses with corrugated, often rotting, zinc roofs dot the landscape. There are few yards with cars in them, no cable or internet and definitely no hot water, but what do you see instead?
You see kids running barefoot in the grass, kicking around an empty plastic bottle, while peels of laughter ring out.
You see women gathered at the local river to sit on a rock, wash clothes and catch up on each others lives and to probably talk about you! You see men gathered around a rickety wooden table under a tree as they play the most competitive games of dominos you’ve ever seen, slapping the dominos onto the table so hard, it can be heard from a block away.
While most of us are living to work, most Jamaican’s are working to live.
Would most of them love riches and luxury? Sure. Who wouldn’t. I’m not saying they don’t have dreams, ambitions or desires. Many Jamaicans have risen to amazing heights and have seen great financial success.
While they are reaching for those dreams, and working harder than most to get there, they are still enjoying whatever they DO have. It’s not all or nothing. It’s day by day thing. It’s an “all in good time” thing. Life is slower, allowing more time to take it all in…more time to digest the goodness.
Now that I’m living here part time and more realistically experiencing the daily life that Jamaican’s live, as I’m understanding more about “the struggle,” I appreciate the beaming smiles and contagious laughter even more. To remain joyful in the midst of trials is the epitome of strength. I love this place and I love these people. They are teaching me so many important things. I’m glad I found my way home.
If you’d like to read more about why people choose to make Jamaica their home, check out this post!
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