(“all is good” in the Quiche language of Guatemala)
Recently I returned from a service trip to Guatemala through an organization called Salud Y Paz (which translates to “Health & Peace”), and I can’t not share about my experience there. Although this is my professional website, I am a believer that our lives mold our writing journey – the ups and downs, the places we visit, the people we meet, and the emotions that dance or rage.
Being in Guatemala is like a trip down the coffee aisle at the grocery store or to a coffee shop. It arouses all your senses (Hey! I just wrote about that…Smashing Pumpkins) and presents itself on many levels:
The sweet, nutty aroma; the bitter or rich dark roast; the visually stimulating colors of bags, cans, or cups; the sounds of grinding beans, dripping coffee-makers, or frothing of steamers; the smooth feel of beans or the coarse gritty grounds…
I could have chosen any analogy but coffee stood out (and not just because Guatemalan coffee is superb!) because I can taste, see, smell, touch, and hear it…much like I could experience all my senses while in Guatemala. There is no one way to experience this unique country, just like there is no one way to experience coffee (or tea) – to each their own. I asked each of the nine team members to use one or two words to describe their experience. We all chose a spectrum of descriptors:
memorable * vibrancy * motion * painful * smiles* opening
heartwarming * humbling * happy * friends * amazing
Although our team all shared in the physical journey, we each experienced our own personal journey. We took home diverse moments of goodness and pain. I will boldly go out on a limb and say that we all felt, saw, tasted, smelled, and heard hope’s presence in our team and in Guatemala.
Our trip took us from the speckled autumn of New England to the mountainous, rural, green highlands of central Guatemala (specifically Camanchaj, a Mayan village nestled in the Quiche state). Here resides a medical clinic and preschool (for ages 5-7) created by Salud Y Paz for the purpose of fostering health and education of the mind, body, and spirit. Our primary project involved painting classrooms and furniture, painting and tiling/repairing the kitchen, digging a driveway, and other construction work. Our Guatemalan hosts worked beside us and we shared in a week of friendship-building. We shared joyful moments with the children. We joined in fellowship with the staff.
We experienced Guatemala.
…the culture, the life, the landscape, and the heart of a gracious people filled with hope and goodness. It may be hard to say that what we saw was goodness, while we also saw poverty, pain, and hunger but goodness and hope were there. And we were only part of the picture. We didn’t bring the hope and goodness with us…it was already there. It was visible in people proud of their heritage, in their dignity to take responsibility for their family’s well-being, in families instilling hard-working values in their children…in smiling faces happy to see another sunrise.
I know what you may be thinking – travelling to a far off country is not in your stars. That’s okay. It doesn’t take a big trip to another country to do and see goodness and hope. We can look around in our community to find goodness and hope everywhere – food pantries, advocacy groups, service projects, after school programs, the needs of an elderly neighbor, community events, etc. (the list is endless). Perhaps my experience will encourage you to take your own journey into fostering goodness and hope, wherever it may be.
We took home not just the big picture but the beautiful, emotional, memorable details of this journey. I certainly came back "stirred up" with a new perspective. Every life experience is an opportunity – for personal growth, for sharing with others, for obtaining different perspective, and for education.
Writing about it is just a side effect.
Next month: Breaking into the Business…Perseverance, Patience, and Putting in the Time.