What Are We Doing?

On our last day in Nicaragua, we traveled from Monty’s to the El Limonel Dump in Chinandega to cook lunch and feed the families who were displaced here after a volcanic eruption devastated their village. It was about 95º and we were there to cook soup for the 200 families that called El Limonel home. 


I had been hearing about the dump since I arrived in Nicaragua and I was trying to understand why a community was living there. One story was that they were sent temporarily during the evacuation and then forgotten about. I also heard that the community chose to stay. Either way, we were in a severely impoverished area and the sight of the old school bus we arrived on sent the kids chasing us through the streets. 

It’s always amazes me to see the pure joy that comes from those who have so little. In 2006, my mom and I traveled to Thailand and visited an orphanage. These kids were so much fun and full of happiness. I often wonder if the abundance we have created for ourselves and the accumulation of things is somehow connected to the millions who are suffering with depression.

I was relieved to see that we were preparing a soup from fresh vegetables and chicken, which we chopped up with rusty, dull and dented knives in a makeshift outdoor kitchen. The soup was cooking in three enormous cauldrons over a wood fire. While the soup was simmering, a group of us went to see the dump. Walking over to the dump, I saw some houses that had been made from cement blocks while others were more like what one might see in the impoverished areas of India. Makeshift dwellings that a swift wind could dismantle. Again, we were surrounded by children who wanted to hold our hands, get piggyback rides, all laughter and smiles.


The sight of the dump stunned me. The first thing I thought was “What are we doing?” This dump, in a small area of a small country, was enormous. This country doesn’t even have close the resources and money that we have in America. It made me wonder how vast and full our dumps are in America that we never see. The garbage men just take it all “away”.

While trying to hide my tears behind my sunglasses, one of my friends was holding a girl who was about 4 years old. She lifted up my glasses, totally exposing me and I feared that she would think I was sad for her. I couldn’t be more wrong. All she wanted to do was make me smile again, and she succeeded.

We are a disposable society basing our choices primarily on convenience. I’m not excluding myself from this, I’m not pointing fingers. I am truly confused by how to proceed in my life that is so full already, and how to now make my choices that are both good for me AND for the planet. 

In my forthcoming posts and the Consciously Creating Clear Space book, I will share alternatives, ideas and strategies to strike a balance and always look for the win-win. For years I’ve been talking about donating things we no longer use to those who are in need, but there is a tremendous amount of waste I come across with my clients that has nowhere to go but the dump. It’s time for a shift and with that shift, new opportunities and solutions have to evolve.

I would love to hear your thoughts on what small shifts you can make to keep things out of the landfill.