Guatemala 2016 | New Lenses

Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 1.49.01 PMThe culture shock has set in now that I am back in the United States, but my mind is still in Guatemala. Air conditioning, warm showers, and a comfortable bed are all part of my life again, but I cannot wash off the feel of that beautiful country. It has gotten under my skin, and things can never be the same. The sights, smells, and tastes of Guatemala are forever embedded in my soul. My eyes will never see the world the same. I have been given the gift of new lenses and the grace to view life differently.

The haunting images of human scavengers sorting through garbage, young woman pounding rocks all day for a living to sell for only pennies a bag, and the abhorrent living conditions in the slums of La Limonada will never leave me. Neither will the beauty of Antigua with its spectacular colored buildings, the stunning, erupting Mt. Fuego, and the captivating Lake Atitlan. Guatemala drew me into its magnificent scenery and its suffocating oppression. It left me feeling confused and hopeful all at once. Underneath all the visual stimulation is a passion for God and the fight to make things better. I met Tita and Shorty, both struggling against all odds to save even a few of Guatemala’s children from the vicious cycle of poverty by offering before and after school programs. In these safe havens, the youth are given love, food, and a space to learn. The clear message from Tita and Shorty is that there is another way. They both have created bridges that can lead to a different, safer life off the streets.

So what does this all mean for me? After viewing social injustice so up close and personal, I know that the issues of the poor are not someone else’s problem. They are my problem. We are all children of God and I cannot ignore the cry of the unnamed. Hunger, sexual abuse, and male domination have a troubling face. The contrast between the privileged and those whom society labels as worthless is great. How do we close the gap? My new vision needs to focus on this issue. I need to get a clearer view of how poverty affects the way people get access to education, decent living conditions and fair treatment in our criminal justice system. I believe acknowledging the problem is the first step. Denying that there is white privilege in our country is seeing through my old eyes. God has given me new eyes and I will never be the same.

Janet is a Spiritual Director that studied Ignatian Spirituality and uses it to help others find God in all things.  She facilitates a contemplative prayer group at her church and is constantly amazed how God continually invites all of us to a deeper union with Him.   She has been married for 32 years, is the mother of four grown children who are all amazing, and grandmother to a grandson who brings her never ending joy.