by: Anastasia Manning
Reflecting as I return home from my mission trip in Retalhuleu, Guatemala:
How do you put into words a change in your soul? I broke down last night. Last night I cried a lot, and for reasons I feel that words cannot do justice in capturing. Before this mission, I thought I knew what it meant to be kind, selfless and act with humility. But I didn’t know these things as much as is possible, as I thought I had.
I would like to think that I had previously always attempted to bring compassion and empathy into most of my daily encounters. However, I can now say with certainty that it was based on my life perspective at that time. This experience has widened that perspective and allowed me to see the true depth and breadth of these characteristics. I’ve now bared witness to people who are so strong and kind, and almost never complain. People, who after surgery are exhibiting objective signs of pain (ie tachycardia, hypertension, etc.), with silent tears streaming down their face, yet state that they have no pain. Who, when asked, will help you while expecting nothing in return. People, who on our arrival, lit up with hope, and prayed and cried in unison for the possibilities that the week ahead held.
There is something truly beautiful about a group of diverse strangers coming together for the common purpose of helping others. And while we may have started the week off as strangers from all over the United States, we ended it as so much more. We not only celebrated our successes and shared our challenges each day, but also laughed, danced and celebrated together. When most of your team, whose flights leave later in the day, get up at 3 am just to see you off and say goodbye, it speaks to the depths of the bonds that were forged in this experience together. We all came prepared, but some unforeseen challenges did occur, yet it resulted in creative thinking and the team coming together to find the best solutions for the patients. It reminded me of the incredible strength that exists when we come together as citizens of the world, and that while we all fill our separate roles, we are so much stronger together.
I am sad because I’m going to miss the beautiful country of Guatemala, their incredibly strong, kind, hardworking and resilient people, and my incredibly talented, compassionate, and fun team. Despite only one week passing, I am not returning home as the same individual as when I originally left for this mission. However, I’m also happy because this experience and all the people I encountered have changed me for the better. My heart runneth over. I feel inspired to re-evaluate my life, priorities, complaints, etc. and strive to become the best person I can possibly be so that I may be more mindful and hopefully do more to bring light and peace to those I encounter.