Wednesday, May 14, 2008

German Youth

Tuesday, May 13th

I found a dead rat in the pila while I was washing my dishes...good news: it was already dead. Bad news: the rat poison/burning survivors alive didn't get rid of all of them.

One of my friends in Germany is organizing a ¨Youth Task Force¨in his church to go out and combat things like hunger and poverty in their city. He is giving this huge inspirational speech in June and he asked me to write something that he could use as an example of someone out in the world working in development. I had a lot of trouble doing it because I feel sometimes like what I am doing doesn't quite qualify as ¨development¨work in the sense that people might expect. I am teaching kids to brush their teeth and wash their hands--not exactly what you see in the movies. I was talking to my mom about it and she pointed out that the fact that life here working in Guatemala isn't neccessarily rewarding, exciting, or difficult is important for people to know. Moms do always know best. So here is what I wrote to my friend:

“I guess one thing I would like to say and I don’t really know if this is relevant or not…but I don’t feel like my life right now is what people would expect when they hear I am working for the Peace Corps in Guatemala. I am actually pretty comfortable here (I have electricity and running water). The help I am giving people isn’t really as obvious as feeding a starving person or keeping someone from getting AIDS. Suffering in the world doesn’t always look exactly like what they show on the news or in the movies or in commercials on TV. Thinking about writing this for you or sending pictures, I found myself thinking that the people I work with aren’t “needy enough” to be an example to anyone. I realized how stupid that way of thinking was. I think a lot of people who want to “save the world” seek out the neediest people they can find where aid work is really obvious when in fact there are people suffering next door. There are people everywhere that need help and the point isn’t where or who you help but that you are doing something to better the life of someone else. The people here are needy even though they aren't desperate. I know that I am in the right place, but I didn’t have to come here to find someone who needed my help. On the other hand, I could have gone somewhere that they needed my help more than they need it here. The point is in the attitude. The point is to do something for someone other than your self. It doesn’t really matter who you are helping, what they need, or how badly they need it. It isn’t always as obvious as putting food in the mouth of a starving person in Africa, but it is often a lot simpler and a lot closer to home than that.

I hope that makes sense. I am actually kind of having a hard time because I don’t feel like I am making much of a difference here. I am teaching kids to wash their hands and brush their teeth. It isn’t exactly my world-development dream. The truth is, I know that what I am doing is important, and at least it is doing something for someone other than me. It is “preventative” work rather than “reactive” so it doesn’t feel as urgent. I can’t see the difference that I am making but it is there. It is just a hard adjustment because it isn’t exactly what I imagined when I decided I would save the world. It is good for me though. I feel like maybe I am growing up a little and I am definitely learning a lot about myself which could turn out to be just as valuable as the things I am doing for others. ”

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