Sweat pours down the faces and backs of the volunteers. Our arms are sore, our lips are parched but we continue to nail, sand and paint the pews. We are renovating two churches: Our Lady of Guadeloupe and Our Lady of Charity. We’ve been working for hours now but no one complains and no one whines, we weren’t forced to come here. Now, let’s back up to the beginning, this group of volunteers are part of a mission group that travels to third world countries to visit the locals and renovate churches. I am fortunate enough to be a part of this religious group and able to join them on this journey to Panama.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
The whole team had to raise money for our flight, for the materials and for our bus driver. This required my group to come together once a week to work at a fish fry and raise the money. Once in Panama we stayed in La Chorrera and lived with local priests. The priests’ house was actually donated to them by a kind hearted local lady. She gave her house to three priests to live in and now the priests shared it with the mission team. The lady visited and claimed she gave the house away because it was too big for her and that the priests needed it more than her. That kind of selfishness seems hard to find, to give up something like one’s own house is a huge sacrifice and I wonder if this kindness is found more in poor countries rather than wealthy countries.
On this journey I found more selfless people in Panama. My team went to Colegio Moisés Castillo Ocaña, a school, to do a skit for the children and I was passing out necklaces and toys to the children. One little boy came up to me and asked if he could have another toy for his brother. I looked around and I didn’t see the boy he was referring to. I found that in America, kids would use that tactic to just get another toy for themselves and there is no other brother. So I was a bit reluctant to give it to him but I caved in and handed him another toy, then I watched him, and to my surprise he went over to another little boy and gave him the toy. That kid who had very little didn’t take advantage of me and try to take another toy for himself. He was just looking after his siblings. Another instance that touched me was when we handed crayons to the kids but unfortunately we needed them back for the next group of kids that we would be seeing the following day. When we asked the kids for the crayons back they didn’t hesitate, they pulled all the crayons out of their pockets and handed them to us. Their altruistic attitude is something that should be treasured and praised. Their ability to share is better than American children’s ability. They didn’t try to steal; they didn’t scheme to keep those precious crayons. When you have close to nothing, things aren’t as valuable, it is the sharing that proves to be more rewarding than the gift.
All that toil and work was worth seeing through those people’s eyes and not seeing possessions as valuable but the joy of other people. The people in Panama kissed us and thanked us for the pews we build them, the painting and the sacristy we built. I couldn’t thank them enough for the perspective they gave me.
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