"I miss her swaying hugs and her deep voice, often followed by a cough signaling respiratory challenges- Jenny, Jenny, Jenny. I simply sat, swayed and smiled in her 11-year old embrace.”
The children and families I worked with taught me not to be afraid of those others may identify as diseased, untouchables, waste because they are people living amongst a wasteland with a layer of concrete. This experience taught me that nothing (people or resources) is wasted. These individuals deal with what I would call the “stench of resourcefulness,” do with what you have no matter how challenging the odor of your circumstance. My life has been transformed by the practice of opening your heart and arms to the unfamiliar.
I worked with children ages 11-13, in the third grade. They learned multiplication, division, science, health, English and of course had recreation time. I watched the professor as he balanced the lesson plans with individual care for each student and even if the student had a rough day behavioral wise he would stand at the doorway ensuring each student received besos y abrazos on their way home. By American standards this was unfamiliar for a teacher and student relationship, but the Spanish cultural demonstrated to me that students need to know through touch and kind words that despite their harsh realities you are a safe space. So I let my guard down after the first day and their love poured in faster than I could believe.
Lessons learned in Guatemala
· Learning how to give grace to strangers is the Gospel, a similar lesson I learned in Israel and West Bank
· Take off your Western mindsets when thinking of ways to serve people in other lands
· Use what you have- that includes yourself
· Love without needing to feel accepted by the one you demonstrate love towards
· Do what you can and offer your best which is always good enough
· Even if you only transform yourself and one other person you have technically transformed the earth
· When you are resourceful you find more joy and less stress or exhaustion of thought
· The sacred is what you make it; it is in you
· Money only helps to enhance what is already around you
· Save your money you would be surprise how much you can live off of
· I realized through this experience that to die in vain is to die never seeing the parts of a world that you are created from. Maybe that is why I feel connected no matter where I land.
Questions to consider from my work in Guatemala
1) What journey must you go on, what quest must you begin in search of your authentic self?
2) How do we serve those who have only the dream of survival before anything else?
3) How do you heal a community in grief when they are used to being ostracized and when in death they are separated due to low socio-economic status?