I needed this trip. I’m quick to take things for granted. It’s a fault of mine that I struggle with. Too often, I look at material possessions others have and catch myself envying them. Maybe I’m a product of my environment but that feels like a cop out. The facts: I consume in excess and it’s never enough. At least it wasn’t.
I could go on and on; I could detail every minute of the trip and it would never have the same impact that being in the midst of it does. If pictures and movies couldn’t convey the experience, I doubt my written words would be able to. But I can try. I’ll tell you these two things with certainty: as bad as it was, there are people who have it even worse. And, save their physical ailments, those we met were content if not happy.
Our trip was amazing and it was more than I ever could have expected or hoped for. Most importantly though, it provided fresh perspective. Being in Guatemala revealed vast room for improvement in my character. I was unprepared for what I saw there. I’m way too comfortable in my little bubble here in The States. I think a lot of us are. We have it all yet we want for things we don’t need. I know I do anyway.
We met families who found shelter in houses built out of sticks and mud or repurposed metal shutters if they were lucky. Metal walls came at a price though; durability also meant more heat. Humidity was high and the brutal sun beat down. Retired garments, dated advertisements, and weathered tarps were strung up around their homes to cast any bit of shade they could muster. I had never seen living conditions like these in person. Photos and videos didn’t do them justice.
Children scaled the hillside barefoot. The few toys and stuffed animals they had were caked with dirt. Their clothes were ragged and stained. But their eyes beamed and they smiled big the whole time. This life is all they have ever known and they’re appreciative of what they have. They don’t need the latest and greatest status symbol. They know where their next meal is coming from. Maybe some of them aren’t in good health but they have their family and they take care of each other.
Thursday, May 29th at about 2:30 AM we landed in Miami. My girlfriend, Palina and I got back to our place a little after 4 AM. As we crawled in to bed, exhausted from the trip and a long day of traveling, I thought about all of the people and things I’m fortunate to have in my life.
I have absolutely all I’ll ever need, and then some. This trip gave me a new lens and I was reminded that everything is relative. The reality check was unprecedented and past due. I’m clinging to memories of being in Guatemala because they remind me of how privileged I am. We are lucky to live where we do and to take that for granted is criminal. I plan to visit Guatemala to do more volunteer work later this year and return as often as possible. It’s truly the least I can do.
-Casey Schumacher [designer]