On the first Sunday of each month, Thrive Ansanm students together at the resource center to discuss important issues. Recently, we tackled the question, “What is more important, money or education?”
Perhaps education seems like the more virtuous answer, but what if you don’t have enough money to buy food or find a good place to live? Sadly, this is the situation for many Haitians, and let’s not forget that it takes money to go to school. This question poses the classic “chicken or the egg” scenario.
For myself, as someone who has traveled to Haiti for years and now resides in Haiti, I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that in Haiti many people live as if money is god. Haiti is ruled by a wealthy elite who are not just rich, but very, very rich, and they are content to continue to amass wealth while most people in the country are struggling to procure life’s basic necessities.
The vast majority of people are suffering, and they see money as the answer to their problems. In a way, I suppose they’re right. If you’re hungry, money will buy you a plate of food. If you can’t afford to go to school, money will pay for you to go to school.
Money can solve a lot of problems, but the dirty trick with money is that once you start going after it you often find that you can never get enough, and your legitimate desire for money quickly turns to greed.
To put it another way, you can’t live without owning money, but if you’re not careful money will start to own you. As Jesus said in the gospel of Matthew, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (NIV) At Thrive Ansanm our goal is to encourage the next generation of Haitians to follow the example of Jesus, and his example is the exact opposite of greed. His example is one of love and service to others.
Through the course of our discussion, several students shared competing views. Some said that money was more important because the purpose of education is to get money. Others argued that education is about much more than getting money.
They suggested that it’s also about gaining knowledge and skills that can help you in every area of your life.
Others argued that there is more to life than just getting money. When the conversation concluded, there were still varying opinions on the specifics, but the general consensus of the group was that money should not be an end in of itself. It is simply a tool.
It’s amazing how honest dialogue in the midst of safe community tends to elevate our thinking to a higher level. If the leaders of Haiti could come to the same conclusion that these students came to, then I think it’s fair to say that the entire country would be transformed. Right now Haiti is in the midst of a political crisis, and things can feel pretty hopeless, but it gives me hope to know that these young people are the leaders of tomorrow, and tomorrow will be here before we know it.