It’s been twenty five days since I landed at XNA with sunburnt skin and bug-bitten legs. Twenty five days of getting used to a taking a hot shower and driving on a paved road. Twenty five days since I, along with some awesome people that I got to share this trip with, began the adjustment back to reality- something that we weren’t necessarily looking forward to.
For a week over Christmas break, I was given the opportunity to travel with my sorority to serve the beautiful people of Guatemala. It’s been awhile, but I still am struggling with finding the perfect words to explain just how crazy cool the experience as a whole was. In a way, I felt as if I was living in a blur the entire time. Getting to peek into someone else’s “normal” day was humbling. We saw things that really makes us take a double take on our priorities, and how we go about any typical day.
It truly is a culture shock. There are so many glimpses of my every day life that I don’t even think twice about. Clean water to brush our teeth with, shoes that we can walk to class with, a mattress to sleep on? We have grown up with all of that, we don’t second guess whether or not we’ll be able to drink the water or if our torn-up, dirty shoes can make it just one more day of wear before you just can’t wear them anymore. All of these parts of our life? They’re just things to us, and that’s really it. Things.
When I think about Guatemala, my biggest lesson that I learned was the meaning of happiness. When we think about what makes us smile, what does our mind automatically go to? For me personally, it tends to revolve heavily around what grade I get on a test, what plans I have with my friends that night, how much I had slept the night before (yes, it matters), or how productive I was throughout the day. Typical for any college student, right?
That right there is the issue. Why should I be seeking happiness in places where that feeling of this so-called “happiness” leaves as quickly as it comes? What I learned from those that I met in Guatemala, whether they were 6 years old or 60, is that their sources of joy are not tangible. They’re not percents, they’re not worth a penny, they’re not a fun night out. Their positivity is rooted in passion. The passion for their family, their community, and most importantly… their God. Where you spend your time seeking happiness reflects how you approach any situation you face, and that was so prevalent meeting these people in Guatemala. As the Guatemalans are living in the toughest of conditions, they have a smile and a hope and a love that is something like I have never seen. It is pure. It is abundant. It is everlasting. And seeing those things was just even more of a reminder of how important it is for me to focus on where I seek joy.
It’s been quite the whirlwind of a sophomore year so far. I have learned about the principles of American journalism. I have learned how to successfully curl my hair in less than ten minutes. I have learned that Amazon Prime is the most convenient, yet dangerous thing that I’ve ever faced. (Yes, I got a cold while here at school… and yes, I Amazon Prime’d tissues during my cold… and yes, they were at my doorstep the next day.)
I have also learned the feeling of defeat when facing problems that I simply could not solve. I can’t stop my friends’ tears. I can’t be everywhere giving everything and everyone my undivided attention at the same time. I can’t automatically cure disease from the person that least deserves it.
But then… it was a total game changer when I learned that I am not the one who solves these issues- God is. His gracious love has the power to solve these problems that are bigger than myself. And what’s even better is that His plan is one that is so carefully and wonderfully crafted to overcome what we are facing, and how we are supposed to conquer that is based on what we learn through Him. How cool is that?!
The challenges I am given may be much bigger than me, impossible for me to completely and accurately solve. And trust me, that feeling of frustration and weakness is not the most ideal feeling in the world. However, me feeling hopeless led me to shift that hope that I wanted to have in myself into someone who has had the solution articulately planned from day one. After making that decision in my mind, that stress of needing to have control vanished and that security in knowing that those problems are already solved in their own wonderful way overwhelmed me in the most humbling way possible. And from then on, I’ve learned that the purpose of these problems that are bigger than us coming into our lives is because God is bigger than them.
Like I said already… how cool. How cool is it that there is already a plan for me, for my family, and for my friends? For the people in Guatemala who endure hardships greater than anything I have ever seen, they continue to live through God’s enduring love… and that alone gives them the happiness that far outweighs any negative that occurs in their life. Once that lesson is learned to let go of these stressors in your life because you are not in control, you will start to live a life similar to the beautiful people in Guatemala- one that is pure, abundant, and everlasting.