Breathtaking volcanoes looming silently in the distance. Stray dogs in packs roaming rough cobblestone streets. Bustling markets aglow with vibrant hand-woven cloth. Busses roaring passed trailed by thick clouds of black smoke. Rain water turning streets into raging rivers in minutes. Tree limbs heavy with limes and avocados. Armed guards with thick, black vests. The gentle patter of hands forming tortillas. Happy, smiling children. Razor wire and broken bottles sparkling in the sun. Contagious laughter floating through the air. Plates of delicious fried chicken. Piles of trash. Mountainous speed bumps. Fleeting glimpses of lush interior gardens. Pastel painted stucco….
These images, sounds, and smells remain vividÂ in my mind since my return from Guatemala. Along with these memories, my favorite and hopefully most lasting souvenir is my new understanding of the world in which I live. It is clear to me now that I have never really appreciated the blessings that fill my life.Â I have overlooked my home, my family, my education, my country, and even my kitchen sink with its reliable flow of pure, clean, potable water time and time again.Â
Another striking realization is that I’ve done nothing special to deserve these blessings and privileges. They were simply bestowed upon me and could have just as easily been bestowed upon someone else.Â People in developing nations have just as much potential as I do. ..they are filled to the brim. Their economic, political, and cultural situations, however, have a big impact on what they can accomplish. While I surf the web and go shopping, people in developing countries work hard to simply survive.Â I never worry about what I will wear or eat or what will happen to me if I get sick. Sitting in my cozy home, eating my plentiful food, talking on the phone and reading books, it is all too easy to think that my life is normal or somehow the standard. After visiting Guatemala, however, I know that this is not the case. Had I been born there rather than in the US, life as I know it would be drastically different.
So now, what do I do with my new understandings and realizations? It is simple. I must respond. The stories of civil war, drought, earthquakes, eruptions, violence, and oppression that flash across my television screen every night are happening to real people just like me. Rolando, Aracely, Zaidy, Berta, Yolanda, Breici, Sergio, Rebeca…they are my sisters and brothers. We are all living out the circumstances we are given. We are all responsible for helping each other however we can.
Â If I could, I would send everyone on a short trip like the one I just took. I am so thankful to have my eyes opened. My new vision changes everything…how I spend my time, my money, and my energy and how I see myself in relationship to the rest of the world.