Mexico has been a hot topic in the US news for years and for good reason. We share a border, families, cuisines, and depend on each other for more than we often realize. These news stories are focused on crime and corruption, which let’s be honest, is the same news everywhere. What the news doesn’t mention is how kind, honest, and generous the people of Mexico are. It neglects to mention how they’re living meaningful lives, often with less than we’re accustomed to in the states.
Today I want to share three things I noticed about Mexico that are different than our home in Minneapolis, Minnesota. These three things were a ray of hope during a recent visit with my husband, Jer. I hope that sharing these stories will inspire you to create more meaning and connection in your life.
Two months before I published this post, Jer and I flew south to celebrate 15 years of marriage in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. We’re adventurous, outdoorsy, and enjoy good old fashioned peace and quiet. So rather than hit the regular tourist spots, we opted for a meaningful meander down the road less traveled.
Over the course of two weeks, we visited tiny coastal villages with populations maxing out 200 people. We enjoyed quiet mountain pueblos with less than 1,000 full-time residents. And wrapped up our visit in a quaint neighborhood just south of Puerto Vallarta.
Other than a hotel receptionist and two waiters, no one outside of Vallarta spoke English. Due to their small size, there was very little information available about these pueblitos. And the only traffic jams were with the local cattle and vaqueros. To some of you, this may sound like torture. To us, it was a wonderful way to get to know the language, culture, and people of Mexico.
After all of the beautiful vistas and epic adventures, there was one thing that stood out – the people. Like much of Latin American, the people of Mexico are generous, friendly, and sincerely care about you and your safety. They want you to feel welcome and go home and tell everyone how wonderful Mexico and their little slice of paradise is. Here are three ways they show hospitality and how live a more meaningful life.
Fun fact – I’ve never talked to my next-door neighbors. Every time we come home from a run or bike ride, they go inside before we can make eye contact. Sure, some of this is on me. I’m kind of shy and hate to bother people (such a Minnesota thing). Still, I could have gone and knocked on the door to introduce myself. (You can still do that, right?)
Either way, you can’t deny that we’ve become more distant and disconnected over the last couple of decades. And there’s plenty of data to back that up but that’s not the point. The point is that we can do better.
We got up early every morning while visiting Mexico for a walk or run. In the first small town we visited, an old man came out every morning to say, “hi, bye-bye,” as we walked by. Those were likely the only two words he knew in English. Seriously, how nice is that? He went out of his way to make us feel welcome in his small town by greeting us in our language.
Urban and rural Mexico alike, it’s hard to pass by someone without acknowledging them. If you’re close enough to make eye contact you say “Buenos Dias.”
Even though I’m a quiet introvert, it felt wonderful to connect and be acknowledged. It was a much-welcomed change to have someone smile at you rather than turn away and look at the ground.
I enjoyed it so much that even though I’m kind of shy, I’m going to start doing the same. I’m making a concerted effort to smile at people and say hello whenever I can. Would you be willing to do the same?Each time a person passes by you and you say "hello", imagine that person turning into a candle. The more positivity, love and light you reflect, the more light is mirrored your way. ― Suzy Kassem Click To Tweet
LEND A HAND
The next thing we love about the Mexican people is their willingness to help each other and visitors. They don’t hesitate even if there’s a language barrier, which we all know can be intimidating.
Here in Minneapolis, I feel like people are becoming less willing to lend a hand each year. It’s not uncommon to watch someone slip and fall and no one stops to help or even ask if they’re okay. I have been in some frightening situations myself and no one did anything to help.You cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late. ― Ralph Waldo Emerson Click To Tweet
Not the case in Mexico. I lost track of how many times we were offered help. One of the most meaningful was the day we had a problem with our rental car.
As Jer and I were leaving the coast to head to the mountains, I heard what sounded like a cat coming from the side of the road. I turned off the radio and listened more closely and it sounded like the cat was moving with us. I tried to convince myself that it one of the many vocal birds in the area. But the noise got louder and more frequent. I rolled down my window and had a bad feeling it was somewhere in the vehicle.
I asked Jer if he heard it too. As a less detail-oriented person, he heard nothing. So I asked him to stop and step out of the car. He got out, looked under the car and frantically said, “I think it’s in the engine.” Our hearts were pounding as we pull over and popped the hood.
It took some time but eventually a tiny orange and white kitty head popped out. We tried everything we could think of to get the cat out. We both had a terrible feeling it was injured and didn’t want to make matters worse.
As we stood there, freaking out, a young man stopped and asked if we needed help. In the best panicked travel Spanish I could muster, I explained that we had a cat stuck in our engine. Without pulling off the road, he threw on his hazards, hopped out of the car and immediately started working to get the kitten out.
There are no words to explain how grateful we are for the kindness of this stranger. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without him. I’m also happy to report that the kitty escaped completely unharmed … twice.
The kindness and generosity of this young man took a huge burden off of our shoulders that day. By simply taking a few minutes out of his morning he saved our entire travel day. His kindness reminded me that at our core most people are really good.
We’re not as good at lending a hand here in Minneapolis. As a culture, I feel like we’re overscheduled and always behind. As a woman, I’ve been trained to stay aware of any potential stranger danger. And as a Minnesotan, I don’t like to interrupt or bother people. It sounds crazy when I say it out loud … I don’t want to be rude and ask someone if they need help. Noted!
Of all these reasons, I believe our greatest hindrance is our perceived lack of time. How it would really impact our day if we stopped for five minutes to give someone a hand? I don’t know about you, but I waste at least five minutes a day on
What if we all committed to lending a helping hand just once a week? If just half of the six million people in Minnesota did that, the results would be huge. Or how about just a quarter of the 328 million people in the US? That’s 82 million good deeds a week. I predict we’d see a lot more positivity and connection with this one tiny tweak.
Jer’s great at stopping to help anyone in need. I feel inspired to do better too. I’ll commit to lending a hand at least once each week. Would you?
I like to think I’m pretty good at saying thank you. But I’m nothing compared to the people we encountered in Mexico.
One afternoon Jer and I stopped in the plaza of a small mountain village to buy some fresh fruit. The process of paying, thanking and saying goodbye to the vendor took minutes, not the mere seconds it takes here. It was clear that we were both appreciative of what the other brought to the exchange and
This gratitude continued in the city. I noticed that on the busses, every passenger said “Gracias,” to the driver as they exited. Every single person said thank you!
Then there was the restaurant owner who came to our table to personally thank us for dining in his establishment. He told us that he wouldn’t be in business without his grandmother’s mole recipe, God, and his customers. His appreciativeness makes me want to go back to Vallarta just to eat there.
Here in the states, I don’t always feel appreciated. Sometimes I even feel like I’m a bother to the clerk who’s paid to ring up my items at the grocery store. (Sorry to interrupt your texting. 😉 ) And good luck trying to ask for something that’s not on the shelf at the home improvement store.
Think about the last time you felt appreciated. Maybe it was for doing business at a local restaurant. Or perhaps your boss complimented a project you completed at work. Maybe it was a simple thank you from your family for making a delicious dinner.
Isn’t it more meaningful to feel appreciated than like a bother? When you feel appreciated, you want to give more. You want to do better. And when no one notices, we ask ourselves, “why bother?”
Like many of the things I talk about, saying “thank you” is simply a habit. My goal after visiting Mexico is to say it more. I’m going to try to say “thank you” at least twice in every interaction. Maybe add in a quick compliment. How about you? Could you add more thank yous?Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless. ― Mother Teresa Click To Tweet
As with every trip we take, we learned so much about the people and the culture. We felt welcomed, safe, and at ease. The people of Mexico went out of their way to make our vacation meaningful and enjoyable.
This got me wondering, what would it be like if we were more helpful here at home? What if we greeted people rather than looking away? What if we went out of our way to express gratitude more often? I bet we’d find that our lives become happier and more meaningful.
The ball’s in your court. You’re already a leader and can start increasing these actions in your home, workplace, and community. Start with a simple smile or offer to lend a helping hand. Together we can make the world a more meaningful place by building bridges and not walls.Together we can make the world a more meaningful place by building bridges and not walls. Click To Tweet
What have you learned while traveling that inspired you to change the way you live at home? Share in the comments below or come say hi on Facebook.