As I stepped out of our hotel this morning, I captured a mental image of the surrounding streets and buildings before we departed for our final adventures to Antigua. My eyes became fixed on a quote painted on the side of a building and is one that I will forever associate as a foundational reminder of how I hope to carry out our last 24 hours, and apply what I have learned from my experiences in Guatemala, to my life at Xavier.
It read, “Relish the special moments that may cross your path.”
Not only did I realize the value of living in the present, but truly appreciating and taking in the mental image of the unforgettable people and events that walk in and out of my life each day.
I never expected to learn and take away as much as I have from the people within this community, our team, educators, and I have truly seen myself grow in such a positive way. What we are doing will not alter the entire healthcare system in Guatemala, however I have seen the value of helping the elderly, children, and families to lead more sustainable lives.
This morning we got a glimpse of how medical mission trips, such as Xavier’s, have greatly impacted this community. After a wonderful soccer game and presentation by the grade school down the hillside, we walked back to the clinic, where Jorge, an advocate for the clinic, explained their future ambitions. Once approved, twenty scholarships for their nursing program will be given, dental and pharmacy classes, English and laboratory training, and specialized training in pediatrics will be instilled. It’s great to see the community creating change before our eyes and the future aspirations these people have for the wellbeing of their Patanatic.
I feel so incredibly grateful for this intangible life experience, and the past week has gone much faster than I hoped and anticipated. I never expected to learn as much as I have, but our time at the clinic has been well spent, and I have truly been touched by every patient who walked through our doors.
Yesterday was our last day, and I had a moment that struck home during pharmacy. Although there is less contact and educational assessment opportunities with patients/doctors, I found this station as a prime opportunity to connect with each patient, as we were the last person they left the clinic after distributing and explaining their medicines. I had met a woman early that morning in triage, who I immediately connected with. She was mid 70’s, and after performing an eye exam it was evident that she could barely see the second to largest row on the chart. The reality was that her vision was severely impaired, but it would not be long before her perspective was transformed.
That afternoon we crossed paths again as I handed her the medications. She put her hand on my shoulder, pulled out her new shades, and told me to try them on. The tables had turned; now I could no longer see the second line on the eye chart or anything that lay before me. In that moment, we connected on a sub human level. Although my vision may not be impaired, maybe we all suffer from blindness in some aspect of our lives. Maybe, it takes a simple act of kindness, a genuine conversation, a pair of glasses, or a life changing experience to open our eyes and feel the pulse of life.
I look forward to soaking up our remaining hours in Antigua. I can only hope that each one of us relishes how special these people and final moments are within this beautiful country. I hope to forever remember the people that I crossed paths with over the past seven days. Their gentle acts of kindness, humbleness, and sense of humility are forever imprinted in my mind.
My time in Guatemala has served as another stepping stone that has ignited my passions for helping others and immersing myself in different cultures. I’m beyond grateful for this opportunity and a huge thank you goes out to everyone who supported our endeavors. I look forward to sharing my experiences with you when I return!
March 7, 2014