Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I thought about how different our country would be if everyone had the opportunity and desire to do a trip like that. I also thought about how much I think we got out of the trip in addition to how much we gave.
At first it seemed amazing how well we worked as a team, each with our own backgrounds, many not really knowing each other that well. Each of us having some strengths but bringing our many weaknesses to the group as well. In retrospect it seems like the perfect mix of people was assembled to not only get the physical job done, but to truly be present for the people we met and hopefully leave them a lasting impression that there is a better world out there that hasn't forgotten them. Mostly what impressed me about our team was how during trying situations people would pull out some strength from inside that filled in a void in the group that was needed. From physical strength and emotional depth to quiet compassion and the ability to mix concrete on the bare ground our group had it all!
It's incredible what can be done by a diverse group of people when truly motivated behind a common goal of helping those less fortunate. It's also incredible what we recieved in return from the people we helped.
Proud to be your co-worker,
P.S. Please forward this to Channy and tell him our talk at the Atlanta airport was a highlight of my trip.
The roads were covered with discarded clothes, shoes worn through the soles, rotting batteries, and other environmentally scary items. The electrical lines were supported by live trees and dead tree limbs haphzardly wedged between the wire and the ground. I was struck with how significant each meal must be for a parent when you are not sure how you will provide a lunch for your family the next day. One day we gave a pastry to Jose Cruz. After much convincing, he finally accepted it, but did not eat it. He carefully wrapped it in a plastic bag and slid it in his pocket (much too small for the pastry) as if it were some sort of treasure. From his eyes, I expected he probably planned to bring it back to his family for sharing.
During the day I found myself aching to hug my children and wife and to tell them I love them... but the damned cell phones rarely went through. My personal faith, hugs from Donna, Gaudencio's (spelling)laugh, and Paco's personal strength kept me balanced.As I worked through the cement pouring days, I found the varying levels of stink and visual stimuli were so disturbing to me that I really needed to escape through physical exersion. I found myself savoring the hard work as penance for the physical luxuries I have enjoyed my entire life. Thankfully, the physical pain, muscle soreness and exaustion kept me sleeping peacefully at night.
Then something hit me on the second day. The people were serious, struggling, and needy, but not unhappy. It was as if they accepted this lifestyle as their life, and found ways to make the best of it. The kids were loved, and considering the circumstances, were generally well cared for. Someone else mentioned this before, but I was struck by the number of father's playing with and hugging their kids as well. Americans seem to make much less physical contact with their children, maybe it is a fear of public displays of affection. Maybe most significant, Paco and his the others in Manos de Vida really love the people of the Tultitlan dump.
The Rejuvenation team was absolutely incredible from top to bottom. I cannot think of one time where I felt a person was not giving everything they had. I watched Nicole control wheel barrows loaded with more than her weight in cement, Sisco worked on his hands and knees for three days straight. I couldn't count how many buckets of sand and gravel Donna, and Lisa filled. Channy lifted countless buckets of gravel and rocks, Toby, Christopher, Steve, pushed countless wheelbarrows into homes, Megan did everything, and Foley "woman" handled the cement mixer which was a real beast. We found ways to work together in very efficient ways. See a need, fill a need or... see a potential need and offer to fill the potential need. Everyone looked out for one another physically, and emotionally.
As the week progressed, the entire team felt an incredible desire to do more. We found ourselves spending our personal money at night buying gifts for individuals, and for Manos de Vida. I personally felt like I just could not possibly spend enough. Finally on Friday Morning, the blood and tears had flowed to dryness. It hit me that we did all that we could do while we were there and that had to be enough. No matter what we did, we could not bring everyone there to a decent living, or make every child feel blessed.
The real value in this trip and the best contribution we can make comes from this blog. From keeping our memories fresh, and our continuing efforts to help this organization and others like it survive and help people. Maybe the best thing that can come from this trip is for each of us to learn from the families in the dump that our children and families need love, and to not take our lives for granted.
Thank you Manos de Vida for sharing this with me... Thank you Rejuvenation for the opportunity... and thank you Jim Kelly, your personal commitment and financial commitment to the people of this world are rare gifts. This experience was truly once in a lifetime.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
We are back on American soil. The trip to Mexico was rough; the turbulence, the anxiety, the general upset stomach. I can play the last week in my head so clearly… and at the same time it’s a blur. It went smoother than I could have imagined. It was also a lot tougher emotionally than I thought it would be. I will be honest, that I had no idea what to expect.
I thought it would be different. I thought I would be able to be removed. I thought I could do the work and be done with it. I wanted to help people. I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to prove to myself that I was strong enough to go to a foreign land where I am totally out of my element, no common language, different culture, and different beliefs. I was lucky to have some wonderful people there with me to push me when I needed a push and let me know it’s okay if I needed to withdraw and take some space.
I sat in my hotel room and uploaded photos and blogged during a massive lightning storm. I went to a anthropology museum with two awesome little kids. I walked through a church built in the 15th century and the remains of a temple built even longer ago. I worked with some really amazing people, both native to Mexico and from Portland.
We accomplished something that most people never even consider trying to do. We gave up our comfort and our security. We went way outside our comfort zones. In the end, we met every challenge that came up and we did it as a team. That sounds corny, I know.
But, it is amazing what a small group of dedicated people can accomplish when they set their mind to it.
I miss my home. I miss my cats. I want my own bed. I want to cook my own dinner. I want to go to work and help people with plumbing and hardware.
There is a part of me that wants to go back to the dump and pour 15 more floors. Hang out with Pablo and Jose Cruz. Pet the dogs and give them cookies. Eat Ruth’s amazing cooking. Wake up sweating in my hotel room and watch movies and 30 Rock with Donna. I want those things too.
We are sitting in the airport at Atlanta. The Wi Fi is down. I will post more pictures this weekend… but right now I am happy to be one step closer to home.
See you soon.
Friday, May 9, 2008
I left my comfy space in Portland Oregon, so hey, why not try to post a guest blog. It is one of the many first time experiences I have have since arriving in Mexico City. Many of you know how straight and to the point I like to be so here are some thoughts, observations, challenges, question...what ever you wish to call them I wish to share them. They are things I have been pondering throughout the week.
* Have you ever been worried about your child being bitten by rats while sleeping at night?
* Would you stand in the middle of traffic - BAD DRIVERS AND BUSY TRAFFIC - to sell snacks or newspapers to make money for your family?
* Why can't we leave our children (under the age of 5) at home while searching through the local dump to find useable household items, clothing and food?
* I will think twice before I say, "I don't want to eat chicken again" when I have a freezer and fridge full of delicacies to choose from...then call pizza hut.
* I will never appreciate a COLD bottle of water or can of soda more than I do now.
* I will remember the smiles of the child with the dirty face, tattered shoes, sitting in fecies and eating food with flies all around.
* When I help a customer complaining about a slight defect in the finish of their hardware I will remember the walls made of mattresses and doors made of scrap wood. I wonder if they care what finish their doorknob is.... oh yeah, they don't have one.
* Everywhere I went I saw people loving each other. Couples held hands, fathers played with their children; they physically embraced each other regularly.
*Why can't I bring every child I know to see how these beautiful, humble, gracious people are living? Would they appreciate what they have or would they continually be blinded by greed?
* I have eaten food that has made me very very happy :)
* I would have never gotten to know some pretty fab folks at rejuvenation.
Many nights I tossed and turned from all of the thoughts and feelings that have been brewing a bubbling. I got through the whole week without crying, but today was my day. As I stood behind a table giving out the donated clothes, school supplies, and personal hygiene items it hit me. I was giving away a piece of myself with every item that was given off that table. And I was honored to do so. I could understand much of what they were saying but we spoke to each other’s hearts and I got some great hugs out of it.
I gotta go now. I am exhilarated, exhausted, and in much need of a shower. As I get ready to go home I pray for the people of Mexico city and the families at the dump. God has a purpose for everyone and everything and though their situation may look hopeless to outsiders they are a strong people. I gave my time and energy, but they gave more to me then they will ever know.
Dios le bendinga mi Amigos Y mi Amigas!