It was only yesterday that we left the hot, humid environment we had come to call home for the last nine days. As we were journing out of the depths Guatemala, I could not help but reflect on the solid glass and metal barrier that separated me from the everyday life of many Guatemalans. I was separated from the noisy, trash filled streets by a modern innovation, a machine that had been developed to improve the quality of life. At this point, though, I was having trouble understanding how this great piece of technology was really enhancing the everyday life of this third world country. I really felt like I was in a giant bubble, and this bubble was allowing me to run away from the reality I had barely began to understand.
I remember flying into Guatemala and being drawn back by the sprawling slums, and the many armed men who lined the streets to protect vaious businesses and people. I have to admit, even coming from Wyoming, that men with shotguns everywhere is a bit unnerving. As we drove on that first day, we past more poverty then I have ever seen in my life; poverty that rarely allowed the lush plants of nature to overshadow it. As we rolled into the clinic for the first time, completely exhausted by the previous night of travel, I felt the beginning of my vulneralbility to this environment: physically, mentally and spiritually.
Here in the United States, we live a comfortalbe life. Yes, we have struggles and challenges, but we also have a lot more ways to numb the pain caused by our suffering. From media and social networking to drugs and food and large houses and laywers, we live in an enviroment where people have the opportunity to avoid suffering if they so desire. In Guatemala this is not the case, many people learn to live with their suffering like those who come to the clinic for medical help. What is surprising and will always amaze me is even with this pain the people are joyful and passionate for living. They are willing to get up early each day and surrender their time and energy to provide for their family and friends. They are willing to sacrifice and give.
It would seem that Guatemalan’s are very far indeed from the U.S.; this is something we all reflected on and gave thought to. On one hand, they are physically miles away but on the other (like many countries throughout the world) they are following suit with the culture being poured out of the U.S. day after day. Music, movies, and the latestet fashions are being received by Guatemala as a whole, even the kids at the dioceasen run school have their own taste of the pie, whether good or bad. This became very apparent when they presented Gangnum Style (a recent Youtube craze) to us during a visit. It was an uncomfortalbe moment for me as I realized our day to day actions here in America directly effect others throughout the world. What I choose to support, even if it is just for fun, directly influences countless people. Am I okay with the ideas, motivations and morals, that the U.S. is transmitting to the world? Am I satisfied supporting music that has the power to degrade and dehumanize the beautiful witness to life the Guatemalans have given me?
One example of American influence is the throw away culture. We buy individually wrapped snacks and throw away the wrappers without worrying where they end up, or we purchase one time use products that are easily replaced. As I spent more and more time on the streets, I begun to hunger for an answer to the question of why we throw things away. Where was it ever stated that we had an ability to rid ourselves of our ‘stuff’. In Guatemala, with trash piled everywhere it is interesting to me to think that something can really be thrown away. Without an infrastructure to support a clean environment, a Guatemalan cares little for the piece of plastic he just released to the already trashed ground. And, if this is the attidute towards small pieces of plastic and paper, then what prevents this mentality from being applied to larger, more meaningful parts of life?
This trip, at least for me, is the beginning of a new understanding. In the days ahead, I will reflect much on this experience and the kindness and love given to me generously by people who have far less than I do. Their wealth is not so much physical, but it is overwhelmingly spiritual. This is the reality I had to face as we drove in our giant bubble, escaping, some would say, back to the place we call home.