Peru was home for two weeks this summer while I worked with a humanitarian group. Ducking a spitting llama and finding out why it’s better to ask “quanto es” (how much is it?) instead of “quanto questa” (how much do I cost?) were unexpected lessons. I expected to work hard in Peru, but I was surprised by the paradigm shift that came my way. My perception of the world changed.
The setup for my paradigm shift began at 30,000 feet during a ten-hour flight. I read a book entitled, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effect Teens.” The book explains that past experience and beliefs affect how we react to the world. One example of a mistaken paradigm is when the executives of Decca Records rejected the Beatles in 1962.“We don’t like their sound. Groups of guitars are on the way out.”
It is easy to look back at history and see how mistaken perception causes people to make wrong decisions. Few people can foresee the future when immersed in the present. Before I visited Peru, I would have never understood the impact for good one person can make on the lives of others. Peru forced me to see the impact of small acts of service by ordinary people.
Never underestimate the difference one person can make. I laid a cement floor for a family in a Peruvian village. The father said, “You gave my daughters dignity today. I always wanted my daughters to have a better life and you have raised them off the dirt.” I’ll never look at cement the same again.
Small, seemingly insignificant actions change lives. Our group of 20 American teenagers took a flock of Indian school children to a fair in Cusco. I accompanied a smiling girl named Mariba. She took my hand and, speaking broken Spanish, we took off through the crowded stalls of llamas, guinea pigs, and bunnies. At , we treated the group to lunch at a restaurant. The meal included guinea pig and chicken feet. Our leader told us this was one of the best meals these children had ever eaten. They were thrilled with a meal that to me seemed inedible.
In SaltLake, I packed a 50-pound suitcase with everyday items. In Peru, these became treasures. Our service project brought antibiotic creams to treat the skin rashes of Peruvian children. I brought books, wooden toys, and school supplies for the village. Our group of teenagers built a much needed stone plaza in the center of the village of Salkantay by harvesting stones from the local mountain. We painted a preschool and built a donkey barn.
One of my favorite experiences in Peru was visiting the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. I was lucky to be one of a few people that day to climb Waynu Picchu, a special hike that takes you to the top of the mountain next to the ruins. From the top of this mountain, the hiker has a completely different perspective of Machu Picchu. My trip to Peru, like the hike to Waynu Picchu which changed my view of the ruins, has changed my paradigm of the world. I have seen how individual acts of service can truly benefit the lives of others. I never thought I could have learned so much while ducking a spitting llama.
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