The Smiling Maid

I’m in a bus going up the Chilean coast. The ride is almost twenty-four hours long, which means I have no excuse to not get a solid blog post written. If only I had an idea…

For the past few hours I’ve been staring outside, trying to come up with that perfect idea. I watch the huge waves crash on the beach, and I want to write about how beautiful it is. Not so useful, though. So I think of other things to write about– ways to improve things, how to accept problems that exist.

At the moment, though, none of those things seem like a big deal. Okay, there’s some bad stuff in the world, but look how beautiful the world is. It’s stunning.

Maybe I don’t need to write about the problems or the solutions. There are so many people talking about problems and solutions all day, that if I take a day off from that, the world will keep spinning. Maybe I should write about how everything’s working pretty well.

Yesterday a maid came into the elevator leading up to the modest AirBnb we were renting in Chile. She smiled at us and said “ciao” when she left the elevator. So friendly and nice.

I had a moment where I felt bad for this woman. I was out exploring a new country with friends, but she was cleaning bathtubs and toilets. Is that fair? Is that okay? Should I become a janitor for a few months to see what it’s like and empathize?

She smiled, though. She seemed happy. Who am I to assume that she doesn’t like her job or that she’d rather travel with her friends? Maybe she likes what she’s doing. Maybe I would like it, too, if I did it for a couple months.

And all that made me think: “You know what? Our system works pretty well.”

Here’s a woman who apparently has no “high-level” marketable skills. She lives in an underdeveloped nation and cleans toilets for a living. But she’s smiling. That’s a pretty cool thing. How great is it that our global society, with all of its faults and problems, can provide some meaning and happiness to just about anyone who puts any effort towards finding it?

I mean, if a maid in Chile can be happy and friendly, what’s my excuse? What’s your excuse? What’s anyone’s excuse?

I don’t know that this was always the case. I don’t know much about history, but going back a thousands years, I don’t think society could necessarily provide that level of goodness for everyone. In some ways the lowest members of our societal hierarchy are better off than the kings of those times.

People enjoy more safety and security now than they ever have, at least on a macro scale. Education and knowledge are far more accessible than they’ve ever been. The barrier to traveling outside our insular spheres has dropped dramatically. Our understanding of the world and each other is at an all time high. Things are really good.

It’s important to remember how good things are, because society makes it so easy to focus on the problems. Yeah, the government is spying on us, there’s income inequality, some people are starving and dying, and there are dumb wars going on. But mostly, things are good. That’s not to trivialize struggles people are going through, but let’s not dwell on them either unless we’re thinking up solutions. And let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are problems, but things are good. Be thankful for that and think about what you can do to pay it forward and make things a little better for others.


Photo is a little girl on the salt flats who was just having a ball running around by herself.

In the past two days I booked three round-the-world trips that leave between November and March! Alitalia had either a crazy sale or a glitch where you could book US -> Europe -> Asia multi-stop trips for $150-$400.

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