The Peace Corps Turned Me Conservative (Or: How I Learned the Importance of Family)

As a conservative mommy blogger, I get frustrated daily by the posts I read in the most popular “unbiased” parenting blogs.

Of all the parenting-themed blog posts that go viral everyday, it seems that most posts fall into one of two categories.

Either the writer suggests that one style of parenting is inherently better than another (which is a ridiculous proposition, since everyone knows the best parenting strategy is to follow your own instincts), or the writer discusses a problem faced in the parenting community, and how he or she has been victimized by this problem.  Solutions aren’t usually mentioned in these types of posts, but if one is offered, it’s always a government program.

Don’t get me wrong – I understand that government programs designed to help the neediest among us are important.  Welfare programs are a necessity for survival for many families, but they aren’t meant to serve everyone.  Most of us can take care of ourselves.

And when you ask the government to solve your problems, you are taking money that could be served better by helping families in real need.  The government can’t just print money – bad things happen when they do that.

Unfortunately, many middle class parenting bloggers don’t understand this.  The underlying assumption in most viral online articles is that as parents, we are helpless against our circumstances, and we can’t solve our problems on our own.

I am living proof that isn’t true.  Anyone can change her life – although it isn’t always easy.

Click through to find out how the Peace Corps turned me Conservative!

My life today and my life ten years ago couldn’t be more different.  At 23, I was broke, directionless and depressed.  I’d been laid off from a legal assistant job I was terrible at, and my boyfriend and I had just broken up.  I felt like a failure.  Worst of all, I’d lost my faith.  I’d stopped praying to God when I’d started making decisions I didn’t want to talk to Him about, and my spirit was starving to death.

I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I decided to go on an adventure and joined the Peace Corps.  In the four months I spent living abroad, my value system completely changed.  I went from seeing myself as a victim and a loser to an empowered woman with a future full of opportunity!

What made the difference were two separate realizations: first, that as an American citizen, I am incredibly fortunate; and second, that I have the power to make good choices that can affect my life for the better.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

When I joined the Peace Corps, I was assigned to Bangladesh, a third-world democratic country with a mostly Sunni Muslim population and a smaller Hindu community.  During my first week there, I quickly realized there were several things I would have to live without that I took for granted in the United States.

One thing I missed was taking hot showers.  The water in my host family’s house had one temperature – cold.  If we wanted hot water, we had to boil it over the stove.  I missed this luxury more than any other – and even today, ten years later, I say a quick prayer of thanks every time I get into a hot bath and feel the muscles in my legs and feet relax.

The second thing I missed was using a washing machine.  My host mother washed her family’s clothing by hand.  I can tell you, washing clothing by hand is hard work.  It takes a lot of scrubbing and beating against the floor to get the stink out of a shirt.  I only had to try doing my own laundry once before I decided to pay my host mother to wash my clothing for me.

When I take my laundry out to the washer now, I think of her, and I can’t help but feel gratitude for how easy I have it.  With the turn of a dial, some added soap, and the push of a button, my work is done.

Yet another thing I took for granted is reliable electricity.  Our power went out at least three times a week, every week – and it stayed out for at least an hour.  If I was at an Internet cafe writing a long email to my parents and the power went out, I was out of luck.  I’d have to find time to come back another day and try again.

But setting these comforts aside, there were many things my host family had that I admired deeply and wanted for myself.

The first was a strong family.  My host father took pride in providing for his family, and my host mother worked extremely hard to keep her home running smoothly.

The second were confident, strong children that respected their parents.  My host sister was a young teenager, and she was the best English speaker in the house, so we grew close quickly.  She would share her favorite Bollywood films with me, and I would show her movies from America that I liked.  I would typically explain the plot as we watched to help her improve her English skills.

One evening we were watching “A Walk to Remember,” and I told her that the main character hated his father.  She turned to me, face aghast, and, horrified, exclaimed, “Why??!!”  She couldn’t fathom the idea that anyone would hate their father.  I was moved, and I realized in that moment that I wanted the type of man who had raised her – and the type of man who had raised me – to be my partner in life.

Third, my host family had generous and grateful hearts.  I was trained in cultural Do’s and Dont’s before we left the states, but I still made embarrassing mistakes all the time.  I mispronounced words, I usually wore my orna (neck scarf) wrong, and even though I told my host mother I loved all her food, my face would cringe when I saw a particular kind of fish on my plate (I couldn’t handle all the bones).  Nevertheless, my host family was unfailingly kind to me.  I didn’t deserve the wonderful treatment they gave me, but they gave it anyway.

That’s when I realized what they had that I didn’t – gratitude.  When you have gratitude, you don’t take advantage of other people, and you don’t see yourself as a victim.  And people who are grateful are happier than people who aren’t.

When I came home, I changed the way I was living.  I started working harder.  I started praying again.  And I decided to stop dating guys I couldn’t see myself having a real future with.

Today, ten years after my Peace Corps experience, my life is completely different.  I have a sweet husband and two beautiful children.  We live on a budget and stay out of debt so that I can afford to stay home while our kids are young.  My faith in God is as strong as it’s ever been.  Even though my life isn’t perfect, I am very happy.

And I don’t need a thing, but thanks anyway.

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3 thoughts on “The Peace Corps Turned Me Conservative (Or: How I Learned the Importance of Family)

  1. Sarah&Emilys Grammie

    Nicely written. I’m glad you were able to turn your life around glad you found your way back to God he made sure he found the perfect husband for you . Now you have a happily ever after

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