Scott's Entry #16
here goes. My guess is
that this will be my last update from Guatemala.
There is less than a month left, and I know in the coming
weeks my brain will be nowhere near disciplined enough to stop and
conjure up any coherent ideas.
There is just too much emotion surrounding the idea of going
home. I will be lucky
to remember to pack my passport and a change of underwear.
a wrap-up of a year living among the poor is a lot like trying to
describe the taste of water. It’s
something I now know very well, but it’s really hard to put into
words. I’ll do the
best I can.
Some of My Friends
In Canton Los Angeles
have learned a lot this year. I
can break this knowledge out into two categories: “stuff that’s
good to know” and “stuff that could affect how you live your
life”. In the
“stuff that’s good to know” department, I have learned the
planting corn, throw six kernels in the hole
can be a substitute for toilet paper
that taste like rotten eggs are a sign that you have amoebas
is possible for one man to move a refrigerator by simply
strapping it to his back
capful of bleach keeps the “pee bucket” from smelling too
much like urine, even after three days of straight use
can eat leftover meat/eggs/refried beans that have been stored
in a cupboard for days instead of a fridge, and live to tell
matter how many flies are stuck to a fly strip, the slower,
shallow-gene-pool flies will continue to land on it.
get rid of rats in the attic, just open a hole in the roof and
throw the cat in there
your trash is an effective way to heat the water for your sponge
on a faucet does not guarantee that water will come out
can get fleas just like dogs and cats
is no known way to keep diesel fumes from sticking to your skin
in the house may not be a sign of danger, but rather, a sign
that breakfast/lunch/dinner will be ready in about an hour
about three weeks, a person gets used to not having indoor
you throw it on the ground or in a can, trash never really goes
Planting Corn In
On Our New Toilet
(Which Still Requires A
Hike Over Rocky Terrain To Reach)
could go on forever, but the more important learning of the year is
in the “stuff that could affect the way you live” category.
(what to eat, when to eat, where to live, what job to have, what
to wear) is a luxury.
machines, dishwashers, indoor plumbing, showers, hot water,
couches, cars, disposable diapers and electricity are WANTS
rather than NEEDS
amount of food that the U.S. wastes in ONE DAY could feed over
240,000 people for ONE YEAR
of the world, depending on which study you look at, lives in
poverty (no access to adequate health care, education,
we choose to spend our money affects people all over the world,
from coffee farmers in Guatemala to factory workers in Thailand
can be found everywhere
At Dinner In
In A Past Life
of this “life affecting” stuff makes me remember how we lived
before we came here. Lots
of vacations, travel, dinners out, living life without much thought
as to how our choices affected other people except our friends and
family. It was a
wonderful life. We
loved it! Now, that
life seems really far away. So
far, in fact, that we’re not sure that going back to the States
actually means going home. Our friends have changed.
We have changed. The
places have changed. Heck,
we have a niece and a nephew we haven’t even met yet!
Through all of this, one thing remains the same.
We will still likely go about living our lives without much
thought as to how our choices affect other people except our friends
and family. The change
is that our family now includes the poor of Guatemala.
know it sounds cliché. It
sounds like a bunch of hooey to me, too.
But it is a fact. If
we had only come down here for a week or so, as hard as we tried,
these people wouldn’t feel like family.
We would have a lot of compassion for their situation, and we
would pray for them on occasion, but they wouldn’t constantly be
in our thoughts. However,
these people who normally receive our handouts and leftovers have
cared for us this year. They
have invited us into their homes.
They have fed us. They
have nursed us back to health.
They have watched out for us in dangerous places.
They have shared their fiestas and funerals with us… their
joys and their sorrows. All these things that we equate with “family
sacrifices”… they have done for us.
Our U.S. Family
Meets Our Guatemala Family
we know that how we choose to live our lives affects these people
– our new friends and family.
If I buy Folger’s instead of Fair Trade coffee, I am
affecting my friends Juan Ixmata and Pedro Yac in Guineales and
Canton Los Angeles whose families work on coffee farms.
If I buy a shirt mass produced in a sweat shop, it affects my
friends who work for COVERCO. If I choose to buy a THIRD DVD player, I remember my friend
Jose Sapon who had no food for his family for lunch, or Ito the
carpenter in Santo Domingo who can’t afford medicine for his son
who will die without it.
this being said, Gabby and I will never be perfect people. As hard
as we may try, we will continue to buy more than we truly need.
We will continue to make choices that harm the poor.
Even though we may try to make a fashion statement by wearing
sandals, tunics and nun’s habits, we will never be Ghandi, Mother
Theresa, or Jesus. It’s
just not happening. However,
what IS happening is that we are being transformed from the inside
used to be a barrier between US, the "privileged," and
THEM, the "poor and outcast."
It existed in many forms, even in situations where we may
have had the noblest of intentions. In some cases, the barrier was trays of food between US, the
servers, and THEM, those being served.
Or perhaps it was an envelope full of money, or a wrapped
Christmas gift, being passed from US to THEM.
We were always afraid to simply show up empty-handed and only
use our listening ears, loving arms, and caring words to truly get
to know those we wished to “help”.
All of this is not to say that money and gifts aren’t
needed by the poor. In
fact, these things are greatly needed.
However, the gift of dignity costs nothing, and is just as
appreciated by those who receive it.
It can be given simply by caring enough to be
it has been hard, we have entered many situations this year
empty-handed. We had
nothing to offer but ourselves.
At first, it was very frightening.
“What will I say to this woman with no shoes and no money?
What on earth do I have in common with this man with no job
and no hope? What can I share with this girl who has no education and no
took a lot of time, but we finally realized that what we have in
common with each of these people is a name and a soul.
We’re all humans with stories to share.
None is better or worse.
It is in hearing these stories and sharing our time that we
felt closest to humankind, and closest to God.
I think He feels especially giddy when two unlikely souls
make an honest connection.
I’m not going to lie to you. It’s not always easy
reach out. At times it
still feels like a chore. But
time and time again we are reminded of the importance of the work.
the end, the Big Guy has put us all here to make the best of what
time we’ve been given. I’m
starting to think that Heaven isn’t so much a place that we go
when we die, but rather, a place that we make while we’re here.
If we’re all servants of each other, then there are no
needs – the hungry are fed, the thirsty are satisfied, the sick
are cared for, the strangers are invited in, the naked are clothed
and the prisoners are set free through caring and compassion.
Isn’t that the definition of Heaven?
A place without need? Works
been a whirlwind year – one that I will never forget.
In less than four weeks, I will board a plane headed for
Texas. I hope that when
we finally meet each other again, face-to-face, that each of you
will be able to see the change.
I hope that the change is positive.
I think that it is. I
hope and pray that this connection we feel with the world’s poor
will not fade once we land. I also pray that Gabby and I can continue to follow the path
that God has laid out for us. It’s
not always an easy road to follow, but the journey always has some
great views along the way. I
also ask that you pray these things for us.
We can use all the help we can get.