On a chilly spring day in March of 2007, I was approached with the most daunting idea. It was my pastor, whom I barely knew, asking me if I would like to join him and the team on a mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico. He had seen me volunteer at the church for years, and thought I would make a great addition to the team. I was hesitant at first, but after giving it some consideration, realized that this may be a great opportunity.
Our team of eleven had arrived in Mexico in August and quickly got to work. During our stay, we worked vigorously in the scorching sun painting and building dorms for a new Bible school in Tijuana. We also spent some time at an orphanage that was in a poverty-stricken Mexican community where were we were able to fix some things that were otherwise rendered useless. This orphanage in particular housed abandoned young boys who we found were beyond eager to play with the American visitors. As we began to play and interact with them, we quickly realized that language was a strong barrier, but we found ways to communicate and enjoyed many hours with them. Also during our stay, my team and I stuccoed a woman’s home that was originally made of chicken wire and particle board which leaked water horribly. These activities, as well as the numerous experiences I had living there for a week, showed me how incredibly blessed we Americans are to even be able to drink a glass of water, brush our teeth, or even eat some sanitary bread.
This experience helped me connect to the world by finding a group of people that valued my opinion and efforts. In a sense, my team became my second family who mentored me through all the self-realizations I was undergoing. Having these people and this opportunity meant the world to me helping me get on my feet and prepared to face whatever challenges I had ahead of me.
Experiencing all of these things and taking it all in, I feel accelerated my understanding of the world considerably. I have one memory in particular from this trip that I’ll never forget. I was sitting on a balcony in Tijuana, looking at the American border’s lights spread across the horizon in a distinct dotted line. I was surrounded by the loud roar of traffic while peacefully, to the left, the ocean was drawn out as far as the eye can see. This memory particularly captivates me because it shows the contrast between the busy life I can get so caught up in, and how simple nature intended life to be. I realize now, after seeing poverty at its finest, that family and friends are what really matter, because they are what is going to be there for you when there is nothing else.
Since this experience my attitude has had a makeover. People tell me I am more optimistic and altruistic which I can only hope is true. I have also been motivated to start my “Random Acts of Kindness’ project of two years where I organize opportunities for teens in my community to make their own difference. I believe everyone wants to help if only approached with the opportunity just as I was.
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