Guatemala: Breaking My Shell

A few days ago I shared with you all about the Guatemala mission team that I was a part of. Today I wanted to talk about a piece of the trip that really had an impact on me.

As an extremely amateur photographer I had the pleasure of carrying around my Canon DSLR constantly. I took about 1,500 photos in 10 days and only about 10-20 of the photos could really be considered half-way decent. So overall, it was a learning experience as someone who takes pictures but it was really more of a growing experience as someone who interacts with other people.

For the most part, someone who studies human behavior would consider me to be an introvert. However, I would politely disagree with them. Just because you and I don’t have constant conversations doesn’t mean that I am afraid of, intimidated by, or shy towards you. Frankly, it just means that I don’t have a lot to say to you and you don’t have a lot to say to me [This is not a bad thing]. If you and I did have constant conversation/interaction it would probably be forced and uncomfortable…. Blah, blah, blah… What does this have to do with the trip to Guatemala?

For me, this has everything to do with the trip to Guatemala. Going into the trip I had labeled myself as an introvert and had therefore set up expectations for myself as an introvert. I had developed the expectation that I would be consistently uncomfortable because I would be around the same 8-12 people constantly. I also expected to be challenged by interactions that I knew I would have with many native Guatemalans. For the most part, I think that my previous post addressed and tore-down my first expectation. The team was great and rarely made me uncomfortable.

However, I had a little more trouble working through the second expectation. It was troublesome for me because I had this internal want to communicate and interact with many of the local Guatemalans but I really had no way of doing so verbally [My Spanish is horrible]. Although, what became apparent to me a couple of days into the trip was that I could have genuine interactions with many of the natives by means of my camera. [And again, I said I am a VERY amateur photographer].

In third-world countries a contraption that captures images and then displays them on a 2.5″ LCD screen is somewhat of a rarity. So for children especially, my camera was a hot topic. I think that I heard the word “photo” in the form of a question more than I have ever heard the word “photo” in my entire life, and I’m not complaining. The interactions I got to have and friendships that I got to develop were unmatchable and I am very thankful for them. I don’t feel like I should waste any time trying to explain my experiences with the Guatemalans when the photos I have paint the picture better than I could ever try to say it.

So to close out this post I want to say that just because I don’t talk a lot doesn’t mean I’m an introvert, it might just mean that I enjoy our non-verbal interactions just as much or more than our verbal interactions. I hope you enjoy the photos.

Lastly as a side-note, I don’t want to make a “show” out of these photos. I am not posting them to make you feel bad that you live in a wealthy country. I am not posting them to show-off this amazing experience that I got to have and you didn’t get to have. I am not posting photos of these people in an effort to be like national geographic. I am not posting them for any other reason than to [hopefully] show that people are people all over the world. They laugh, cry, run, sing, smile, fight and hope just like you and me.

Guatemala: The Team

From June 6th to 16th I had the privilege of participating in a mission trip to Guatemala. The mission team was a group of 8 other fantastic people who were sent out by my church, Living Stones. The experiences that I had were nothing short of incredible and definitely worth sharing. So in the coming week I intend to write several posts to share the things that I learned and the things that really impacted me.

(Kayleigh I’m sorry that you were sick on the day we took jump photos).

I wanted to start today’s post by saying that never in my life have I been part of a team that meshed so well. I don’t remember a single argument from the entire trip! …that is CRAZY. Usually when I sign up to be part of a team for anything I have the expectation that there will be that one person who has that natural gift of making everyone else hate life. That person did not exist on this trip (unless it was me and I’m just too oblivious to know it). So with that, I just want to say that I am very thankful for our team and the willingness that everyone had to go with the flow. It was all truly a privilege to be a part of.

So… For those of you who are constantly part of teams that never get along I guess I should share at least part of the “why” for our team. Why was our team so awesome?

I think that a big part of the answer is simply that we were a TEAM. None of us were there in an effort to make our own experience/take-away better than anyone else’s. We functioned together as a team that was willing to go with the flow and willing to help each other out. There was no complaining about one person doing less work than the other and there was no boasting about anyone doing more work than everybody else. We all had different jobs at different times and we all did our given jobs. Altogether it was by far the best “team-work” experience that anyone could ask for.

BUT… Now that we are back in the States (back in the culture of entitlement) I wonder if we will bring this concept of good teamwork into our spheres of influence?

For me, it will definitely be a challenge in the future to try and get any team that I am a part of to function as cohesively as this team functioned. I think that it will be a challenge because teams tend to have expectations. We expect to get projects done. We expect to meet the team leader’s goals. We expect to be praised. We expect other team members to be perfect. We expect mind-reading… The problem with our expectations is that they will never be met.

Learning to not have expectations in teams was definitely a huge take-away for me from this trip. I can’t expect people to know things they don’t know. I can’t expect people to do things that they don’t know how to do. I can’t expect people to know how I am feeling if I don’t tell them. All of which seem very simple to understand but we still constantly find ourselves maintaining unrealistic expectations of people. I know that this has challenged and will challenge me in the future so I hope that you can read this and at least make an effort to be conscious of your expectations of other people.

Let me know if you have any tips.

We want to help

Last night I hosted a pizza night at my house to help raise support for the Guatemala mission team that I am a part of. It was a fun-filled night and it was truly awesome to see how many people show up to support the team. We spent the night making pizzas that had real character and just hanging out in genuine community. But the highlight of the night for me was seeing that everyone who showed up wanted to help in some way/shape/form/fashion.

This was interesting to me because I often times find myself at parties or get-togethers as strictly the consumer. I tend to have the mindset of “I came to this party so that I could have fun and so that I could be entertained.” Unfortunately, that is an awful stance to take (not just at parties). This is an awful stance because it involves the development of unrealistic expectations in our own minds. When we think that events are organized for our own personal enjoyment we will always walk away from them feeling unsatisfied and left empty from the whole experience. So I think that we need to change our mindsets and show up to help AND have fun (just like everyone did at the pizza night last night).

The most inspiring part of everyone showing up to help was that they all helped because they WANTED to. I was never under the impression that anyone was helping because they felt like they had to. If anyone was helping because they felt like they had to then they probably would not have had as much fun as they did. Because people wanted to help they had fun helping.

So with that said, I think that the concept of enjoying helping because we want to help is a very important framework to understand. It is important to understand not just for the purposes of throwing parties but for the purposes of interacting with other people in general. We need to create interactions that people want to be a part of. We need to form situations that people have the ability to contribute to. We need moments that need people.

I am very thankful for all of the relationships that I got to experience last night. So I am now hoping to make these types of relational experiences a daily challenge for myself. I want to be a part of get-togethers that make smiley-face pizzas. I want to be at parties that are not hosted by one person but hosted by everyone there. I want to participate in communities where I can help and be helped.

Special thanks to Morgan Simpson for snapping these photos while my hands were covered in flour.