Global Service Scholar: Lindsay Fawcett
Living in a mountain village at a farm in rural Nepal was an incredibly immersive experience that differed vastly from what I was used to living in a city in the United States. I learned many things, including new ways to look at the world. The most important takeaway from this experience was be seeing such a beautifully simple example of what it is like to live when you truly value people over products.
Based on GDP and per capita income — less than $800 per person per year — most of the people of Nepal, and certainly the vast majority of farmers, would be considered poor by our standards. Yet, for the most part, they are happy. This is both because the way poverty works as a farmer is different than in a city, but also because they have different priorities. First of all, 80% of the population are farmers, and many of the farmers sell only a small amount of products, meaning they make very little money. However, most of them have a roof over their heads, some land, and they grow their own food – they don’t need to buy it, and may not need to pay any rent in many cases. If you have all of those necessities, how poor are you really, regardless of how much cash is in your pocket?
Their priorities are also different. Particularly with my experiences at HerFarm, the way they all interacted with each other was far different than what I was used to. Everyone seamlessly looked out for each other. It seemed to be in their very nature to help out and to cook together. No one was shirking any duties or complaining about what they had to do. And in fact, in most cases, no one had a particular job where they knew they were delegated a certain task at a certain time… they would just choose to do it and to work together. In addition, as mentioned in my last blog post, there are mentally ill women on the farm with children. The other women at the farm take care of them, have them participate in the chores and task they choose, as well as social activities, and have adopted their children, whom they love very much. I have never before seen in person a group that truly puts people first to this degree, and does so happily.
Though this particular model at HerFarm is new and unique, there are cultural impacts on it. In their culture for instance, typically the adult children take care of their parents. Often the bride moves in with her husband’s family and they take care of his parents. Perhaps this has to do with an inclination to communal living, and with naturally caring about others, particularly in a community that typically has very few material goods. This is a far cry away from the consumer economy of the Western world. Aside from some basic necessities, all most people have is each other. I have now witnessed first hand the very happy lives of those that value their relationships with each other far above anything else, while still pursuing their dreams and unique aspirations. At HerFarm, they took the strengths of each culture and combined them into a beautiful balance of living your dream while caring deeply about others and supporting each other.
Living among the people at HerFarm and working alongside them has had a profound impact on my life and inspired me to look at things very differently. It is still important for me to be successful in attaining a PhD and pursuing my dreams, but I see now that even that would be meaningless without a deep and healthy human connection with those close to me, and far less stressful with their love and support. I think that while I have mostly positive relationships, I have learned how I could interact with others even better than before. I have learned new ways to show that I care, to improve active listening, and to make others feel valued, heard, loved, and cared for. I have also begun thinking of how we could possibly integrate mentally ill people more into our societies, rather than filing them away in a facility away from the rest of the world.
How can we end this curse of constant consuming and wasting and remember that happiness is found in each other, not in the things we buy? The possible answers to these questions are still churning in my mind, but they are important. Happiness isn’t perpetually around the corner, when you buy the next thing, get the next degree, or receive the next promotion… It’s right here, cultivated in the relationships you have right now.