Sunday, July 24, 2011

Awareness and Humility

Friday was a whirlwind of emotions; excitement of heading back to the U.S to see loved ones, actually having a hot shower and not worrying about everything I eat and drink, but also sadness and some guilt about leaving where I have put my entire heart this past month. I don’t think when I was getting ready for the journey over a month ago, I was prepared for what my heart and mind was about to go through. The highs and lows, challenges and successes, every moment of this trip was spent feeling something. Happiness, sadness, warmth, humility, guilt, anger, fatigue, confusion, and achievement are just to name a few. It can only be described as a life altering experience. The people of Piura told us daily how we were changing their lives and how we were their angels, but I don’t think they realize how much they taught me this past month. Every day I encountered Christ in some way, through the people and my work. The biggest thing they taught me is humility and simply being happy. It is quite an overwhelming feeling when you walk into someone’s home made of bamboo walls and dirt floors, and they pull out every chair and stool they have. Then to wash their hands and feet is something I never thought could make me so emotional. I can’t describe exactly what I felt in those moments but it was one of the most peaceful and serene places I have been. When in reality I was surrounded by dirt, flies, no running water and a hole that they use as a toilet. They have so little and yet they go to the very edge of their resources to accommodate you and make you feel comfortable with no ulterior motive in mind besides just wanting you there. And as little as they have they are so happy to just be alive.

At about 4pm on Friday, a bunch of the people we have become very close with, our Marquette family, Meg’s family and some others came to the church to hang out with us and say goodbye. Merci, a woman I had met my second weekend in Piura, comes to church at Santisimio every night. She always found me after mass and gave me a hug and kiss. She came up to the church at 4:30pm to say goodbye and spend some more time with me before I left. It really touched me because besides seeing her in church and maybe once out in the village I hadn’t really spent time with her besides when I first met her on the procession. She lives about 15-20 minutes away from the church (via mototaxi) and she came all that way just to say goodbye. As I was spending my last moments with the people who have captured my heart I realized that as much as I want to come back here, I just don’t know how realistic it will be; maybe in a couple years but not anytime soon. So much changes here in a matter of a couple years and who knows if I will even be able to contact these people to meet up with them next time I come. I never thought that this is the last time I could ever see these people who have hold of such a big part of my heart. We started saying goodbye and the first two times around I was doing pretty well. I was keeping my composure and able to talk to them without tears. For some reason there was a problem with the car and packing our luggage, so our goodbye turned into about a 45 minute ordeal, which was one of the worst things that could happen. This prolonged goodbye felt like someone was taking off a band-aid one hair at a time. Each hug and kiss broke down a little piece of my wall and the tears were about to bust out. The moment I lost it was when one of the little girls in Meg’s family gave me a hug and then as I was stepping back she made the sign of the cross on me. I was shocked at first, I don’t think I know an 11 year old in the U.S who would ever do that and the action of being blessed by one of the people of Piura just rocked me to my core. Religion and faith is such a huge part of their life that an act such as this really means a lot. They don’t do it often so to receive this from such a young girl really touched and yet tore my heart apart. I lost it after that and I couldn’t stop because Erika, the mom of our Marquette family, and the mother of Meg’s family were both bawling.  We finally got into the car and were pulling out when we saw all the families standing on the corner waving and yelling “Chao” “Bye”. I had finally gained my composure when I lost it again. As many times as I told the people that it wasn’t “Chao” it was “Hasta luego”, I knew it was mostly goodbye for forever.

As hard as it was to say goodbye to the people of Piura, it was equally as hard to say goodbye to the missionaries who have I have become so close with. Even though we weren’t out building houses and doing other activities with them, we spent a lot of our downtime and meals together. It is a unique bond that is built when you live with people in a foreign place. As different as our walks of life may be, we all came here for one reason, to help those in need. We were able to discover more about ourselves through each other and were able to bond with that. Many of these people saw me at some of the highest and lowest points in my life and none of them asked questions, they just listened and understood. You know who you are and if you are reading this I want you to know that you have touched my heart and I will never forget the time we spent together. Thank you for helping me through one of the most challenging moments in my life by being there and making me laugh. I don’t think you will ever understand how much I needed that. You have become family and know that no matter the distance I plan on staying in touch and hope to see you sometime soon. Road trip reunion? J

Dr. Belknap was another key player in this experience. From day one she told us to be open and vulnerable to our feelings. She was always compassionate and even though challenging us, was cheering on the sidelines as our biggest fan. She fostered our learning and was a vital person in making this experience so great.

The last shout out has to be made to Marianne, Meg, Maria and Chelsea. I don’t know what I would have done without you girls. These five weeks have brought us closer than any of us imagined. As crazy as it was I can’t imagine being on this rollercoaster with anyone else. We had our ups and downs, laughs and tears, but in the end we have a special bond that not many people have. I love you girls and know that you will all go on to do great things. Your passion, caring hearts and intelligent minds have pushed me to be the best person I can be and I thank you for that.

It is hard to put into words the feelings and emotions that have gone through my mind and heart in the last 48 hours. There is a part of me that is so anxious to get home and back to my loved ones. There is another part of me that wants to stay here and keep on working. Then there is a part of me that is scared of what to do next. I can’t just go back to the U.S and forget about everything I have done here. I also can’t go back and live a simplistic life like the one I have been immersed in the past month. I have to find a balance and I believe that is going to be the hardest challenge. How am I supposed to lay in my bed at night knowing that many of the people I have grown to love are sleeping on dirt floors and wear the same 3 shirts over and over again? How can I justify buying that cute shirt or Starbucks coffee, when the people of Piura are walking miles to get water because they don’t have running water? As much as I want to give away all of my belongings to the poor and live a life like those in Peru, I know it is not practical. The American lifestyle just isn’t built to work like that. The biggest thing I can do is to just be aware. Aware that I don’t always need name brand clothes. Aware that time spent with loved ones is better than time spent in front of a T.V. Aware that people come from different walks of life but all have one thing in common, they just want to be loved and cared for. The best thing I can do for all of those in Piura, is to pray and think about them every day. Following my heart and putting love and faith in everything I do, day by day is the way I can live out my life here in the U.S. This quote by Mother Teresa is how I am going to approach life from now on and I urge you to do the same. “Since we cannot see Christ, we cannot express our love to Him. But we do see our neighbor, and we can do for him what we would do for Christ if He were visible.” 

1 comment:

  1. Wow Rachael. This brought me to tears. All that you have said is what I can totally relate to! You are one special person and I can't express how much of an impact you have had on me. I hope, like you, that we can be together again; maybe even to serve the people of Piura. It was such a beautiful experience for me as well. I pray and hope that I will go back there soon. Because while coming back here was comforting and joy-filled, I still feel that I left part of my heart in Peru. And I just hope I never lose the desire to go back and be with our family in Peru. :) Thank you Rachael.