The welcome given to us by one of the communities we visited.
It is so nice to be back with you, after missing a Sunday blog post last week for the first week since June 28, 2009. Since Tenley and I were in Guatemala last Sunday, I skipped blogging, partially because I needed a bit of a break and partially because Internet access was limited.
I have been writing about my goal of going to Guatemala to visit our family's sponsored child, Silvia, for a long time. The Guatemala visit was on my 2010 "top three goals list" and although the 2010 part didn't happen, the trip came together for July 2011, thanks to the moral and financial support of many friends.
There is no way I could put everything about the trip into one blog, and I believe part of the beauty of the trip I just took is the fact that parts of the learning from it will not reveal themselves right away. That's why I decided last week that my first blog upon my return would be a "get out what you can in five minutes" exercise, similar to my Got Five Minutes for 2010? post from December 2010. My five minutes are represented below, in italics.
The one moment that stands out most vividly for me is when we were visiting a family home in a Guatemalan village. The home was extremely basic. Dirt floors, tin roof, I think the walls were cinder block. It housed a large family in two small rooms. As I walked in, the dad said to me, "I am sorry this home is so small." I eventually took a picture of the dad as he spoke to us about his hopes for his family, and the phrase that occurred to me is "this is what it really means to "man up." We had learned of so many families where the father had left and the mom had to carry the weight of supporting the family all by herself.
It also meant so much to look our sponsored child, Silvia, in the eye. So much more than a picture on an end table. And for Tenley to choose to sponsor a child (Estela). Being able to talk with these children and their families, even though it took the help of translators and there were plenty of language barriers (Estela speaks Kiche, a Mayan dialect), was an experience that transcended something ... their mothers were so very grateful to be our partners in providing more for their children, especially an education. I said it in Guatemala and I believe it's true -- all mothers the world over want the same thing for their children - health, happiness, education, safety.
We were greeted in such a grand manner in these communities -- very elaborate welcoming ceremonies -- it was humbling to be greeted by marching bands, applause, and carpets of elaborate flower petal designs.
A sample of the elaborate floral greetings underfoot.
In closing, I want to expand upon what I wrote about the flower petal designs just a bit. When our group was visiting one of the family homes, Bob Hentzen, President and Co-Founder of the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, the lay Catholic organization working with persons of all faith traditions to create a worldwide community of compassion and service that organized the trip, told the group to look under our feet, where the family had spread fresh pine needles. This was a sign of welcome and an indication that our visit was a very special occasion. When I think of the elaborate floral welcomes, juxtaposed with that in my mind is the profound simplicity of the pine needles. I don't think I'll ever look at a pine needle again without memories of the people of Guatemala, who I now consider teachers.