Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Back Home Again

Here I am. Back "home" in Guatemala City. This is my third trip back and, yet again, I feel as if I've returned to my heart. It's still difficult to describe the ghetto when you see it in person. It's not just the devastation of poverty, but also the sadness, oppression, spiritual destitution. I have not been to Guatemala in 10 months, and as I viewed the slums of La Limonada once again, there was the return of that familiar feeling. There is just so much need.

How do you even tackle something as big as La Limonada? With somewhere between 60,000 to 100,000 people living in such poverty, how do you handle that? Thankfully, Tita did not let the gravity of the situation daunt her 16 years ago when she began her work in the ghetto. I often wonder if my faith would have been as strong as hers, to know that me, as one person, can make a difference. Perhaps it is an insecurity on my part, or a lack of faith in my God, but it can be a conscious effort sometimes to remember that me, as one person, can make a difference.

I believe it was "God timing" that I am currently reading Richard Stearns' book, "A Hole in Our Gospel." The current president of World Vision, a Christian aid organization, Richard has been faced with this same feeling since he began his tenure. This morning, as I sat and read, feeling tired from a night of restless sleep due to my mind being unable to shut off from thinking about the ghetto, I read a familiar story that I desperately needed to be reminded of.

Richard spoke of the story of a man who was walking on a beach, seeing millions of starfish that had been washed up by the waves. Without their ocean environment, they would die. The man considered trying to help, but became discouraged by the gravity of the situation. "Even if I try to help, I can't help them all," he thought. Then, he saw a man walking down the beach. Bending over, then straightening up, bending over, then straightening up. As he drew closer, he saw that the man was picking up the starfish and throwing them back in the water. "What are you doing?" he called to the other man. "There's no way that you can help them all. It won't make a difference!"

As the man picked up another starfish and tossed it into the ocean, he replied," It made a difference to that one."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back Home Again

Here I am again. Back home in Guatemala. It's almost funny how comfortable I am here, considering that I've only spent 3 weeks here, combined, over the last 18 months. There's just something about this country that speaks to me on a level that most other places I've been to just don't.

My time here thus far has been simply to relax and do a little sightseeing. Tomorrow... my first full day in the ghetto since my very first trip here. Since I spent my last week in Guatemala at an arts camp at the coast, I didn't get to spend any time in the ghetto. I can honestly say that I missed it, and as much as I loved my time at the arts camp, I knew after that that my next trip would mean my days being spend in the ghetto. I just needed to be there. I'm a little anxious about my time here, mainly because I'll be teaching dance for 4 hours a day, after almost an entire year sabbatical. I know that I'll love it and it will go smoothly, but there will probably always be some kind of sense of restlessness when I teach in this environment.

I am also selfishly anxious about my emotional reaction to being back in the ghetto. I know that I will return to the Lemonade House completely drained each evening. Even though it is beyond worth it, it is an exhausting experience.

I will try to update you during my time here to share with you more stories from the ghetto. I know that they're not always easy to read, but they are filled with truth about the experiences of other living in much less advantageous circumstances. I beg for the audience of your attention and time...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Experts at Not Thinking

I realized something today. Since my recent relocation into center city Philadelphia, I have spent the last 5 days intentionally avoiding drinking the water out of the faucet. I simply don’t trust the water to be as clean and tasty as I might want it to be. This also got me thinking about the things we take for granted. Which, as anyone who takes a few minutes to think about will realize, is a lot. As a culture, we’ve become experts at not thinking about all of the conveniences that we have at our fingertips. Experts at not thinking. What a strange statement to make, when you really think about it. And yet, it’s very true. We don't think.

We don’t think about how we turn a knob and water comes out. We don’t think about how we push a handle and a toilet flushes. We don’t think about the fact that we can afford trash removal, and thus keep our streets and lawns clean. We don’t think.

What a shame. What an utter shame that we don’t think while there are people out there without clean water, without running sewage, without trash removal. Without food, and medicine, and hope. We don’t think.

I leave for my third trip to Guatemala in 3 days. I plan on thinking a lot over the next few weeks. I plan on thinking about all of my blessings, on a job that pays my bills, on easy access to the necessities of life. And then I plan on thinking about how I can make a difference in the lives of people who don’t have these simple things.

I plan on thinking.