Beginning this blog is challenging. The interests of each member of the group are so varied and so vast, capturing them in my words will be one of the hardest parts of this journey for me. It is my sincere hope that I will listen more closely, more intentionally, and with more presence. We have discussed presence to great length in the past three days, noting our active presence in conversation with one another, our anxious presence with the members of the community, and the value of our presence to everyone. Being present for and with one another makes a tremendous difference in the day to day life in Guatemala, and we are blessed to experience it firsthand.
The past couple of days have been remarkably beautiful--the mornings have greeted us kindly (as have the roosters) and the tours have been eye-opening. For the past two days we have visited progressive sites in Guatemala including the women's center, the hospital, the coffee farm, and an excellent finca, or plantation, that utilizes the indigenous plants to their greatest advantage. We have been into the homes of many citizens and seen some of how they live and how we are able to serve them. When we arrived, many of us who had not been here before expected to go to work right away. We did not expect to be served or tended to--we thought the opposite! I never thought I would say "gracias" so many times and not once be in a position to mutter "denada." Our presence means a lot to the people here, and their gratitude means the world to us. As we arrived for a tour of one of our work sites, standing in the back of a Toyota pickup, we ducked under a string of balloons celebrating our arrival. Fireworks popped and cracked around us as we entered buildings and greeted our new friends, and the English word "Welcome" was taped onto the wall in one of the buildings. The women we met with showed no skepticism and no reservation, only abundant love and thankfulness. The community brought to us their harvest of bananas and oranges to express their excitement. As we peeled our fruits and stacked our chairs, an excited young boy went outside to surprise us with the cacophony of more fireworks. The joy here is incalculable.
In the early morning and during our evening free time we walk along the streets and greet the people we see. There are always so many people sitting along their homes, greeting the passersby and being present with one another. Though we haven't all made sense of it yet, we know that we have a great deal to learn from these people. They are wise where we are not for their genuine relationships and their willingness to be open to one another.
At this stage in my personal journey, I am discovering the narrowness of my perspective. I realize that without the people I've met today and the experiences I've had in the past 72 hours, I could not possibly draw any meaningful conclusions about the complexities of life. I am lucky to be with such a fine group of people and I thank you for sending them with me. Their reflections help me to make sense of it all and, when I need it most, their presence provides me shelter.
Even as I write these words, more and more of my apprehensions disappear. I'm certain that many of my friends share these apprehensions, and you may as well. Don't worry about us. We are welcome here.