We began preparation for our Guatemala mission trip months ago. Fundraising. Planning. Promoting. You’ve probably seen the graphics, heard our pitch, maybe even donated to the cause. But the actual five-day adventure seemed like more of a distant concept than a reality. Until it was. Like all amazing life moments, I blinked an eye and departure day had come. I blinked the other eye and here I am writing this entry about the journey. Attempting to sew words together, stitch by stitch, that could offer a just picture into the experience.
But it is one of those instances where mere words serve to paint a vague picture of a masterpiece that can only be understood first hand.
My initial fears of Guatemala City, of the warnings I received, the dangers advised by family and friends, dissipated the moment we walked into the first orphanage where a small sea of deep brown eyes stared back at us. They were timid, nervous, some excited and eager. Children from infant age to about ten years old, each from a broken past, each with a story that deserves to be told.
I had heard of mission work and known several people who went on these trips. Our friends at C&I Studios have done this adventure many times before, so we wanted to join forces and partake in the experience. Admittedly, I have never been a cheerleader for world healing. For kumbaya, let’s hold hands, selfless missionary service. I lend a hand of convenience to my fellow man. You know, like holding open a door or donating a couple dollars at Walgreens or Publix when I’m prompted in the checkout line. But the buck stopped there.
As we prepped for this Guatemalan adventure, C&I told us something that, in hindsight, was spot on. This trip is not about what you bring, it’s about how you make them feel. It’s about interacting with these kids and families who have very little monetarily. For a group of Americans to gather in their home, to take time and be with them. Share with them. Pray with them. To hug a child who has been abandoned. Hold a four-year-old girl who has no mother or father, and tell her she is loved.
That is what this trip was about.
And that is where true inspiration is born.
On the third day, our group of fourteen went to Hope of Life. This incredibly developed organization located in the mountains of Zacapa, Guatemala rescues and houses families and children who would otherwise be dying, starving, homeless or abused. We toured their facility, which included an orphanage for young children who had been abandoned or rescued.
I walked into the first unit. A white room lined with cribs for the infants, lit by an afternoon sun that filtered in from beyond the mountains. Several windows led out to the vast landscape of green forest that spanned for miles around us. It was a breathtaking view that wrapped these children in constant beauty.
Immediately as we entered I saw a boy no more than three years old sitting quietly on a chest by himself. He looked alone and withdrawn, dark brown eyes that stared pensively beyond us. I sat on the chest next to him and spoke quietly, “Hola”.
The other kids were playing around with our group, but this boy sat quietly next to me. I picked him up and dropped his little body in my lap. He stared off, leaned his head against my chest. His eyes were the most telling and heartbreaking. There was a weight resting on him that no kid should have to bear.
I grabbed a pack of four crayons from my bag and placed them in his palm. His grip tightened as he looked up at me for the first time. There was a shift in his demeanor, like that small exchange resonated with him. He waved the crayons around as I tossed him in the air. A smile formed on his face and he began to giggle. From that point forward, that little guy was glued to me. I had found a friend and made an amazing connection.
I realized then that our interaction was a universal language. The laughter, the shared experience. It transcended verbal dialogue into something greater. We didn’t need to speak the same language to feel the connection and positive energy that was created. That little guy kicked ass and touched my heart in a way that I did not expect from this trip.
When we came back to The States, I quickly realized that this country of freedom has limited me in many ways. I’ve grown up in a world of expectations. Of high-class problems. In turn, I lost appreciation for the little things, for the luxury of clean water, of a floor in my home. Of a meal on the table and appliances to make it with. A home with four solid walls that offers warmth and security. The convenience of medicine when I am sick so I don’t die from a cold. The comfort of knowing that my family is safe and healthy. Instead I focused on the dent in my iPhone or when I was going to go blow a few hundred bucks at H&M.
Our trip to Guatemala is one that I could not have understood prior to experiencing it. I had never before seen extreme poverty, let alone been to an orphanage. Never held a child who was abandoned or neglected. Never been inside a home that had no structural walls, that was held together by sticks and old clothes.
I write this entry from my desk at helium creative. On my 27” iMac. Checking my cellphone periodically for social media updates. My little unnamed beta fish next to me. I am surrounded by awesome people with whom I get to work with on a daily basis, at a job that makes me pretty darn happy. A job that allows me the opportunity to not only do what I love, but also experience these moments of personal and spiritual growth.
I am grateful for new perspective.