I grew up in a family with very little money; therefore, travel was always out of the question. When I was younger, I would dream of visiting/exploring the world: England with her knightly castles, Hawaii with its sandy beaches and soothing surf, and Italy, the center of the Renaissance. I didn’t think that I would be able to fulfill any of those dreams until I was probably old and retired, but I soon found that to be untrue when I came to college at Utah State University!
Just about a month ago, one of my roommates rushed into the house to tell me about some amazing spring break trip we should take. He said that there was a group called “Charity Anywhere” that goes on service trips to different parts of the World. On this occasion, they happened to be going down to Tijuana, Mexico to help build houses. Though that sounded like a lot of fun, I was skeptical, to say the least. I had often seen different advertisements for “Study Abroad” and trips to Europe, but they were always so expensive. So my first question to his enthusiasm was “How much does it cost?” He excitedly answered that it was a weeklong trip, and our only costs would be $270 for housing and food, and about $70 for gas to drive down there. I thought for sure there was some kind of catch, but there wasn’t; the trip stayed under $300 for me, and it was one of the best experiences of my life! The only thing I wish we could have done a little more of was sight-seeing. Mexico has some awesome ruins of ancient civilizations, but I guess that wasn’t really the point of this trip. I was there to serve.
Through that service, I grew to love Mexico, not for her beautiful landscapes and rich history, but for her people. The residents of Mexico are some of the nicest people that I have ever met. They are so willing to open their doors and help out a stranger, even when they are often the ones in need. The scenery change is drastic as you cross the border; on one side, you have the wealthy neighborhoods of California, and on the other, you see complete poverty. However, the people don’t seem to mind. They are much less worried about money and worldly things, and more concerned about their family and friends. It was a very humbling experience for me, and it made me realize that people, and not things, are what’s really important.
My group helped out a family of eight, whose house was basically made of cardboard and scrap wood with a tin roof. By the time we had finished, I had learned some basic carpentry skills and how to stucco and roof a house. However, the greatest reward came from seeing the gratitude in the eyes of the family; the mom and dad wouldn’t stop thanking us. We have definitely been blessed with prosperity in the United States of America, but I also realize that with that prosperity, we have lost a lot of love for our fellow man. It’s a competitive market we live in when we won’t even help out another human being.
Through this trip, I was able to form long-lasting friendships with the people I served as well as with the people with whom I served. We are all good friends here at college now! I would encourage anyone who is considering a trip to another part of the world to keep in mind a service trip. Though you won’t have as much time to see all of the sights, the friendships you build and the feelings of satisfaction you get are worth their weight in gold.
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