By Channing Lewis
Waking up on Friday morning I found myself excited to get out of bed. I didn’t know why, as days before, I was feeling homesick and not like myself. But for some reason, this Friday, I caught myself feeling like the best version of me. All thanks to a boy whose name I don’t know.
We were staying at Lake Atitlan. There’s an old bumpy worn-down road we must walk up to get out of our house, to the main road. The farther you walk up you start to see little businesses and little stations set up on each side of the road. Each one is run by people who work there all day, and still look at you with the most genuine smile. Back in the United States, most people work fewer hours than the people here at Lake Atitlan. During the day of work, we get cranky and tired and take that out on people. But here, even if they’re tired, they still look at you with the kindest intentions. I knew something had always been different here, but I didn’t understand what, until I met this little boy.
This little boy could have been no older than 7. He was standing at the end of the road with his siblings watching us come up. As soon as he saw me, he ran up and gave me the biggest hug I’ve ever gotten. He jumped in my arms to the point that I had to hold him up. I didn’t understand why this little boy hugged me as if I was the most important person in the world, considering we just met. This is a situation where actions speak louder then words. He didn’t speak English, and I didn’t speak much Spanish. That didn’t matter though. We made a connection based on something I would never receive at home. The trust this little boy had for me in a matter of seconds was truly remarkable and something I will never experience again. The fact that he didn’t know my name, and I didn’t know his wasn’t even important. We were both just sharing a moment of gratefulness for one another. The next day, walking up the hill, he saw me again and immediately recognized me and reacted the same way.
I thought to myself, how could this boy in a ripped shirt that’s too small for him, standing out in the road with his siblings for most of the day, possibly have that much happiness inside of him. Same for everyone here at Lake Atitlan and other little kids I’ve met. Eagerly letting us join their basketball and soccer games, even though we had an intimidating amount of people wanting to play. Why do they have so much happiness and trust in their hearts when they work from dusk to dawn barely making it by? Earlier in the week, driving into Lake Atitlan, I was thinking how much higher our economy is. How I’m going to miss the United States because this place didn’t have the kind of money we did, or the stores I’m used to seeing. But they have something you will never find in the United States. The genuine kindness and pursuit of wanting us to understand this amazing place they come from. Each one of the people here are so grateful for everything they’ve worked for. I bought a drink at one the stores and the nice lady standing behind the counter wouldn’t let me leave my change. Even though it was only about 2 quetzals in change, she didn’t want it. She worked for everything she got and was proud of that.
If you’re thinking about coming on a global trip or even just doing something you’re not comfortable with, here is your sign to do it. Being in Guatemala has made me more grateful for the things I have in my life, and the people who make me feel just like this little boy did every day. I’ve gotten to be accepted in a new culture and be aware of the world just a few thousand miles away from me. Being here has taught me that we’re no better than any place based on the money we have. That these people “aren’t barely making it by” yet living off everything they need. Money really doesn’t matter. It’s the connections that do. In a few years, if you asked me how much money I spent on this trip or what I bought, I would have no earthly clue. But I would remember the little boy whose name I do not know, and the impact that he has made on my life and the change of perspective he made me have.