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Living in the Present

By: Mathew Paul

"Sometimes the best life you could live is when your plans do not go as you had expected."

Born and raised in the United States, it seems that everyone is always worried about the future and

what is next. Growing up, people would always advise me to have a “5 year plan” or “10 year plan” for

my life. That the best thing I could do for my life was to have some master plan and to know where I was

going in life and what I was going to do next.

It’s the question we ask every high school senior and even sports teams after winning the championship

game, “what are you going to do now?” Isn’t it the American Dream? To have a dream and goal in life

and to do whatever it takes to reach that dream and make your life better?  If you had asked me on

graduation day what my life was going to look like in the next ten years, I would have told you that I was

going to go off to college, get a degree in four years, have a good paying job doing what I love, get

married and by the age of 25 be a father. 

Having just turned 25 in December, I can tell you that sometimes life does not always go as we had it

planned out in our heads. Sometimes the dreams or goals we set for our lives, are better off as ideas

instead of something set in stone.  See, 2015 has taught me that while it may be best in the eyes of

some people to have your life planned out, sometimes the best life you could live is when your plans do

not go as you had expected and you find yourself living more concerned about the moment you are in

than you are about the one that is to come later on down the road.

If you would have told me that when I was 23 that I would be single, living in another country,

volunteering at an orphanage and seeing my family a few times a year, I would have told you that you

were out of your mind. It was never part of my plan for my life but on July 25, 2013, I said goodbye to

my friends and family and moved to a small town in Haiti to volunteer as a missionary at an orphanage

of over 100 children. Moving to Haiti was more than a shock to the system. It was more like a system

reset. Learning a new language, a new culture and being far from everyone you know can bring forth

some of the most trying times. I currently live in a house with 16 boys under 15 years old and 4 older

boys. I spend a good portion of my day either taking care of the younger boys at the orphanage or

spending time with a group of the older boys.

While my life plan never had me in Haiti, one thing I always knew that I wanted to do with my life was to

make a difference in people’s lives. To have the opportunity to come along side of them and walk life

out with them. Here in Haiti I have a core group of older boys that over the past two and a half years, I

have had a chance to get to know and be a part of their story. Living as a missionary, you have to learn

to be flexible and always be ready for the unexpected. In the time I have been here, I have witnessed

some tragic moments of loss with some of the boys that I have grown close to.  But I have also have

experienced some of life’s greatest and most valuable moments, which seemed to always come

unplanned. Whether it was a late night writing session with one of the older boys, in which we stayed up

past midnight writing a song that he said explained exactly how he felt after his mother passed away, or

the countless one on one conversations about the trials and triumphs of life, though they were never

planned they have changed my life forever. I have developed relationships with some of the guys here

that I know will last for eternity.

Being a missionary has not provided an escape from the question of what is next but what it has taught

me is that while it is great to have goals for your life, if we focus too much on the plan for our lives we

will let memorable moments pass by. If we are too concerned about what is going to happen tomorrow,

we will miss the opportunity to make the difference today or to enjoy what today holds. When we plan

out our lives to the last detail, we focus so much of our lives waiting for a moment that will never come

because life won’t always play out the way we dreamed it to.

But there is one thing that I do know, if you want to have a 10 year plan for your life, if that works for

you then go for it. For me, I still have the same dreams I did when I graduated high school of having a

family and good job, but instead of living my life everyday as if that is the only option for me, I choose to

live my life enjoying the moments put before me. I honestly believe that one day I will see my dreams

come to pass as long as I keep enjoying the moments that are right here and right now. I would be lying

if I said that it wasn’t scary not knowing for sure what is going to happen next, if I will stay in Haiti or go

somewhere else. But even though it may be scary, I see my life as an adventure novel. Each day I wake

up, I have the pen in my hand to write out the current chapter of my life. And though in the day I may

not know how it will affect the end of my story, I know that each and every day provides enough

memories and moments to write out a story, though not 100% as I would have planned, but one  that I

would never trade for a million years.

Mathew Paul is a Child Advocate for Danita's Children, a non-profit organization, that rescues, loves and cares for orphaned and impoverished children.
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