Monday, March 28, 2011

Eli - post-trip reflections

My trip to Guatemala would be a hard thing to ever forget. It’s not just the amazing scenery, or the smiling locals, or even the fact that we are helping so many people. The thing that makes it unforgettable is the feeling that we were doing something bigger than ourselves. We gave back to a community in need but at the same time we gained so much more than we gave. This was my first service trip and now I can see why people keep coming back for more. The experiences I had are worth more than anything money can buy. Knowing that these people have a medical history now, knowing that we might have made their lives better, knowing we brought some joy to an entire community is a great feeling. The people of Guatemala made such a strong impression on me. Their sense of family and community is much stronger than anything I’m used to back home. Each person we saw had a story and a life we knew so little about but yet we could feel such a strong connection to them and their family. You knew that they deserved so much better and they had worked for everything they had. These people didn’t wait for doctors to come help them; they didn’t sit on the street and beg. They built a clinic from almost nothing. Knowing they did so much just for their children to have medical attention makes you want to do everything you can for them. Your hearts go out to each person that walks through the clinic door. They don’t feel foreign to you. They feel like neighbors or friends. How often do you feel that way about someone you’ve never met? The thing that touched me most was visiting a small village on the other side of the lake. We had three little tour guides (children from the village school) showing us around so we could inspect the water filters in people’s houses. We finished an hour earlier than any of the other groups so we had time to play with the kids at the school. Apparently play is a universal language because I didn’t know any Spanish but we still had a blast. It just hit me so hard to think that all of these kids will grow up to fill their parents shoes as being poor, underpaid hard workers who probably won’t get the chance to go to college. Some will have to quit school to help support their families. Those kids are so special and they all have great potential. If they had grown up in the U.S. half of them would go to college. The fact that they don’t have that chance killed me more than anything. And yet they were so happy. Many of the people wore smiles. Some of them laughed more than I do at home. Some people might think it’s strange that a community so poor can smile so much. Some might argue the reason they are so happy is because they don’t know anything else in the world, that ignorance is bliss. But I know there is more to it. The Guatemalans might have little money but they are richer than most people I know. They know how to enjoy life and that family is more important than anything money can buy. They have a different kind of wealth there. After only a week with them, I hope I’ve brought back a little bit of their wealth with me. It’s something we could all use a little more of.

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