Thursday, January 22, 2015

Drowning in Gratitude

I was supposed to write this blog a little over a week and a half ago. I’m disappointed in myself for not writing about this directly after we came home, but at the same time, I’m glad that I dragged my feet. It’s given me the chance to find some perspective. It’s hard to believe it’s only been a week and a half since we left Guatemala. So much has happened since then. People told me this would happen. That I’d come back to the states and be surprised at how quickly life had to resume. Unfortunately, they were right.

As we all claimed our baggage in the CVG airport, people began to quickly leave and before I knew it, I was in the back of a car on the way back to Xavier. At first, I was so excited to be indulged in the luxury of getting water from the sink, being able to open my mouth in the shower and being able to throw away toilet paper in the toilet. However, this excitement quickly vanished as I promptly had to resume my responsibilities. Sunday, I had to go to the grocery, get my car fixed and go to an orientation for an internship I was soon to be starting. And then school hit. Classes began and then I had surgery two days later. Next thing I knew it’s today, Thursday, January 22. All of this seems like a blur, along with the roller coaster of emotions I felt along the way. It’s hard to put into words. Ask any of us who went on the trip. Because again, it goes back to the fact that this trip ruined me. It ruined all of us.

When I first got back to the states I wanted to call my parents to let them know that I was home safe and how my trip went. I got a hold of my mom right away, but it took until Monday for me to talk to my dad. However, when I finally did, my roller coast of emotions took a major plummet. My dad told me that while I was in Guatemala, he found out that he has cancer. Cancer is a scary word that unfortunately I've heard one too many times in my life. But as that word came out of my dad’s mouth, all I could think about was how lucky he is. Lucky that he actually has a fighting chance. The only reason the doctors caught my dad’s cancer is because of a blood test. One blood test, followed by a precautionary biopsy that would not have been found in Guatemala. Despite my dad’s rising numbers, he felt fine. This type of routine testing isn't even performed in Guatemala, at least not in the area in which we worked.

My dad’s diagnosis, along with my own recent surgery, allowed me the opportunity to find some perspective. It was the perspective I needed. At first, knowing that here, in the United States, gives my dad a fighting chance was comforting. It helped me to accept the situation. But at the same time, should I really be accepting of this? Should I really be okay with finding comfort in such a disheartening reality about the medical care in Guatemala?

I was talking to my friend about my trip and all of these thoughts running through my head. I expressed how guilty I still feel, knowing how greatly medical care can affect someone’s life. He said to me, “No reason to feel guilty D, just gratitude for what you have.” I told him, “Yes, believe me I’m drowning in gratitude. But gratitude doesn't invoke change.” I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to have my life touched by each individual I met in Guatemala. I feel extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to learn in a capacity I never would have been able to here in the US. I know that the abundant compassion we experienced and the open hearts of each community member is a debt that I will never be able to repay. But I’d like to try. I want and need to move past being grateful, so my fellow team members and I can invoke positive change in the lives of our new Guatemalan friends.

Dakota Kulis
Xavier University Class of 2016
Natural Sciences, Gender and Diversity Studies
Deaf Studies Minor