“Oh what a beautiful morning. Oh what a beautiful day…” the off tone singing of my former religion teacher trails off down the hall as he attempts to wake up the crew. Unlike my alarm clock at home, this one doesn’t have a snooze button, so I slowly sat up and surveyed my surroundings. In this little green hotel room my best friend lies in the bed closest to me and in another bed further away lies one of our classmates. Just a day earlier I had traveled by a dawn breaking car ride, two American Airline planes, and one terrifying local van trip for thousands of miles to arrive in San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala.
It all started about seven months earlier when I and twelve other classmates were chosen for Saint Mary Catholic Central High School’s annual mission trip. After what seemed like a lifetime of raising money and packing everything I own, it was finally my chance to work along side the people of Guatemala. I intended to learn all I could from them, and they never once let me down. In just ten extremely short days this joyful community eternally changed my life and perspective.
Although I gained more than any Guatemalan I encountered, we did manage to give back a little with donations and working. We worked through Father Greg’s mission at the Church in San Lucas and were placed at certain worksites everyday. These sites included mixing concrete at the women’s center, bagging dirt at the farm, and building a new road to the coffee plantation. At these sites we were able to help the workers with anything they needed, as well as, get to know more about their lives, families, and lifestyles. I was amazed to learn how poor these people were and yet how happy they all seemed to be with the little they had. In addition to working, we donated $16,000 to the mission for buying land and helping the recent mudslide victims. We also visited with our school’s ten sponsor children and donated a number of items, including school supplies, to them.
I could use all of my 600 words just describing the work we did, but the most important part of the trip would be the irreplaceable experiences I gained from it. I learned to be grateful for everything I have, to not waste anything, how to compromise with the team, problem solving skills, teamwork, and new leadership skills. I believe, however, that the most important thing I gained from this experience was the close bond I established with my classmates. We shared an experience so unique that we will only ever have it in common with each other. I found new friendships, built up old relationships, and established a support network that will be there for the rest of my life.
This opportunity brought me so much, but most of all, it brought a state of peace and calmness into my daily life. In the weeks following the trip I accepted my past troubles, discouraged drama in my home and school, and stopped worrying about my future. Overall, I would say that the people of Guatemala taught me to live in the present and be happy in it because that is what truly makes life bearable and enjoyable in the worst of times.
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