Sunday, August 30, 2009
Alright, I don't know if anyone checks this anymore. As most of you are well aware, Jen and I have been home now for a little over a month. I'm sorry we didn't update for our last few weeks. A lot of crazy things happened, and sadly our attention was refocused and our blog became neglected. Nevertheless, I've been feeling like this whole thing is incomplete. In an effort to give myself and whoever faithfully is reading about our adventures some closure, I'd like to share some of my reflections on this entire experience.
From the beginning, I felt a very strong pull to go to Guatemala. I don't know why. While there, I often wondered when I was going to have that one experience that made me go, "Oh, so THAT'S why I'm here!" Looking back, I can't pinpoint a single experience. However, I have absolutely no doubt that going to Guatemala was what I should have done with my summer. I can't imagine not going, because this trip has become so much a part of me.
One thing I'm always afraid of is that everything that has gone on in the last few months will be nothing more than a blur or a memory. It really deserves so much more attention than that. I want to be able to remember every single detail. I realize that's not very likely, and it kind of makes me want to cry. So, in order to make this experience last a little longer, here are some of the main things I will take away from this summer.
First, the importance of families. It's one of those things I've been taught since I was little. You know, families are the building block of society, one of the most important things you can do is raise a good family, etc. So many problems we saw in Guatemala could really be reduced if more people raised good families. Not to say Guatemalans are the only people that could benefit from that. It just gave me more of a visual of why strong families are important.
Another thing I learned is the importance of hope. The concept of hope has never made that much sense to me. I think when all of us left for Guate, we had this hope that we would be able to change people's lives and make the world a better place, and although we were warned many times, I don't think any of us fully anticipated the real struggles we would fave in attempting this. It seems like one of those monsters that grows two heads every time you cut off one. And eventually, when you start seeing how deep and complicated so many problems are, it becomes pretty easy to get discouraged and lose that hope you started with. As someone in our group once said, "I've suddenly become much less enthusiastic about saving the world." We all laughed, because we all knew exactly what she meant. A few weeks before we left, we had a pretty major safety incident that kind of threw everyone off. I'd rather leave out the details, but I would like to talk about the way this incident affected me. I started to realize what we were actually dealing with. I think it made me reevaluate what hope really is. It's not being naive to the evils or struggles that we face. I think you can fully recognize the difficulty of these things and still have hope. I think that hope comes when you don't let these things discourage you from your fight for good. It's caring about the little things you can do, even if you can't change everything. It's realizing that the moment you let those things stop you is when they win. It's loving humanity and trusting people's ultimate ability to be good, even they seem to choose otherwise.
Which brings me to another things I learned: the importance of agency. Once again, this epiphany came as a result of this incident. We were talking to this man once that told us that as soon as you just give people things without letting them work for it, you're sending the message that you don't believe in them. Which, for me, put our ability to make choices in a completely different light. We have the ability to choose, because we are capable of choosing right, even if we choose not to exercise that ability. But it's just so necessary that we are given the chance, or else no one would actually become what they could, or what they were meant to.
On the topic of service and giving things, I'd just like to comment on the importance of serving your own people. while in Guatemala, there were so many instances where I would just think to myself about how much more effective our jobs would be if we had even more Guatemalans serving Guatemalans. There are so many advantages to this. They understand and can empathize with their people better than anyone, and they can communicate with them on a much deeper level. After thinking about his, I realized that the times my service will be most effective is probably when I'm serving my own people. Not that people should only serve their own communities, but I think I could definitely do more of it.
I think the last thing I learned that I want to talk about is how wonderful and open the culture is there. They are so individual focused. I love the way they greet you with a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. They greet everyone individually, and they seriously give the best hugs that make you feel like you've been friends forever, even if you just met them. I hope I can adopt some of this and become more open and loving.
In the end, it was a great experience. Definitely a lot of surprises and adventures along the way, but it was so worth it.