The Wildezine

Panama 2017: My Observations on Materialism

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Panama 2017: My Observations on Materialism

Donnie Harris, Staff Writer

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A major part of the Sandy Spring experience is getting to understand Quakerism and the role of the SPICES in our community. Personally, as an SSFS student, I have come to hold the SPICES in relatively high regard as I witness each of its principles being reflected daily. Whether it be through our school’s zero tolerance policy for academic dishonesty or violence, or our strong emphasis on bringing the community together via community service and intercession, the SPICES seem to appear in nearly every aspect of student life. However, there is one letter that I feel may be underrepresented in our school: the first S, Simplicity.

Last summer, I took part in a cultural immersion trip to Panama headed by Leah Niepold and Johanna Modak. After spending our first day in a hostel in Panama City, taking in a few of the sights, and snapping some pictures, our group headed off for the town of Santa Fe. I can remember the changing landscape as we traveled for hours, seemingly into the middle of nowhere, passing through luscious forests, and by fields peppered with cows, some birds, and a clear view of the breathtaking mountains that could be seen from miles away. After several hours on the road, we reached our humble destination and met our homestay families.

Sobieda and Yayo were a sweet middle-age couple that had been married for quite some time. They never argued, they never sighed in discontent, and they were seemingly always happy. From the outside, their house was a quaint cement dwelling with a porch that housed some deck furniture and their washer and dryer. Inside was equally simple, with a small dining room space, kitchen, and bathroom (shower included) which was detached from the house. I admit that, at first, I was somewhat uneasy about not having some of the amenities that I was used to—wifi, a/c, even glass windows (as the house’s walls were built with window-like openings made into the bricks to help with ventilation). However, as Sobieda and Yayo were always so content with what they had, I wondered why couldn’t I be too. To me, a privileged US citizen, their home would be considered “rustic”, at best. Yet living there long enough to see the fulfillment and satisfaction they exhibited when seeing each other every day resonated with me. What they lacked in material things, they made up for in happiness. To them, it wasn’t about their house or having “nice things”, it was about being together in a community with people they love and that love them back. I learned that the key to their happiness lies less in owning things and more in enjoying the world and the people it.

In essence, Panama was a wake-up experience for me. It was here that I came to realize just how fixated we can and have become with material things in our community. SSFS is a private school, so naturally it draws a crowd that tends to be more on the wealthy side. Even some of our faculty come from a more privileged background. Although members of a Quaker community, many of us can still be seen wearing the trendiest clothes, using the newest tech and so on. Of course, this is no one’s fault in particular, being well off doesn’t make anyone a “bad person” or a “snob”. However, in my opinion, it does take away, just a little, from the authenticity of the school’s principles. My time in Panama helped me appreciate “living the simple life” (as I like to call it), and how it brings an indescribable feeling of peace. A feeling I believe everyone at SSFS should experience.

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About the Writer
Donnie Harris, Staff Writer

Hello, my name is Donnie Harris and I am a senior and have been at SSFS since 2015. This is my first year working on the Wildezine and I am excited to...

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Panama 2017: My Observations on Materialism