Putting Things into Perspective: A summer trip participant shares his journey

By Robby Mercer

When learning about the opportunity to go to Guatemala, I knew that it would be an amazing experience for myself. That’s why I was so excited and took the opportunity to join GV when they came to my school and gave us the presentation about the program. Upon arrival to Guatemala, I had the mindset that I would try my best to have my eyes open and really think about what I was “seeing” instead of seeing it, taking a photo and then moving on.

On one of the first days that we were in Guatemala, we traveled to the small town of Segundo Cruz in the hills above Pastores. This town was the site of one of the schools that GV had built in the earlier days of the program. When we arrived I noticed how the community seemed very impoverished. What I then noticed was that all of the people in the village seemed very joyful and they did not seem to dwell on the fact that they did not have very much money, food or shelter.

We gathered in a group circle once we were all down at the school. We were told stories about the making of the school and how hard it was to build back when it was all starting. We heard about how hard it was for the children to go to the existing school before GV came. The mothers in the town spoke to us about how important the school was to them and especially to the children that lived there.

Once we were done we all split into groups and went into the homes of the people living in the town. We had a lunch with them and spoke about their lives as well as ours. We eventually learned that these people had been living under these circumstances for years and I understood that these people had learned to live life to the fullest. I had an epiphany and thought that while we might stress over not having enough money to buy a meal at a restaurant or not having enough money to pay a cell phone, internet or television bill, the people in this town and in much of Guatemala are worrying about much more necessary things. I thought about how pointless our “needs” were. Food alone is a very important thing to them. In the U.S.A. we take everything for granted and feel a sense of entitlement without realizing that there are people that probably work three times as hard as us, but make a third of the money.

The people also told us about how hard their lives where besides just money. The mothers in this town have more than just one or two children. They have many more than that. The woman whose home we went into had 3 children and she told us that she actually, by Guatemalan standards, had a very small family. This was surprising to me. I have one brother and I feel like my father has a big job taking care of us when both of us are around, but these women have so much more to care for.

The way that they all worked amazed me. They would talk about taking care of the home, and taking care of the kids, and working out in the farm as if it were a normal thing. I later asked one of the mother’s how many hours a day she typically worked. I believe that she said up to thirteen hours. I was stunned at this and it made me feel sad and sorry for her. I thought about it for a minute and realized that I may feel that way but she had accepted it as reality.

Now that I’m back in Seattle, I’m more inclined to work harder, not because I make money from it but because I learn from it. I now know that I have it easy, though I may think that I have a hard and meaningless job. I think that one of the main things that e should understand about our role in the world is that we should not take what we have for granted when the majority of us were born into our relative wealth instead of us really working for it.

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