Coming Back to Life: Changing Perspective, Changing Lives
A week of manual labor and playing games with kids and I would get to kick back at a Costa Rican beachside resort for four days.
This is what I thought.
This is what I got:
Seven days that forever changed my world, four days of feeling conflicted for being in such a luxurious place after what I’d been a part of, and two months of trying to reintegrate myself into our wasteful way of life back home.
In a week I learned that I had no idea what it meant to truly want for something in life. I had no idea what it felt like to not have something I needed. I had always had the necessities in life. In that week I met nearly one hundred children that don’t know what that feels like.
We have a lifestyle in the U.S. that promotes waste. We waste food, water, time, even people. From twenty minute showers to all-you-can-eat buffets we are a society of gluttony. We live in a void of meaningless thoughts and actions, like a reality television show, where the main character is and always will be ‘me’. We know but fail to understand, or fail to find successful means to help, those that are suffering in our own country and in other countries.
During our first week in Costa Rica, my fellow Washburn classmates, C.A.M.P. members, and I, stayed in a bare hostel with hard beds, water you couldn’t drink, cold spit baths, a septic system that couldn’t handle toilet paper, and busy streets that never slept outside our little havens. This was the week I learned how to BE again. The week that I went back to basics, went without meaningless things in my life like television, text messaging, internet, vanity, luxury, and it was amazing.
We spent our days building a walkway and a cabin at a camp for children from abusive and negligent homes, we taught other kids games at the local church in Heredia, we visited orphanages and homes of those in need, we gave out hugs and gifts and backpacks, and we spent an entire day fitting young children with new shoes—shoes that will be worn out within a year from labor and overuse. I did meaningful things. I was useful. I thought less about me, me, me and more about someone else.
I have experienced coming back to life. It arose from losing my illusions, dropping my shield, and experiencing another’s way of life. It came in the wary eyes of a small girl, in strong set shoulders proud to provide even the most meager things for their families, from truly grateful words and actions, from little girls who are in orphanages because their families couldn’t provide for them, from a week that started with distrust and ended in tearful hugs, in children that know how to work harder than many of us ever will in our entire lives, it came from little children with dead, beaten down eyes at the age of four, it came from bringing a smile to these faces from my own actions, words, and behaviors. It came from a lifetime of lessons learned in seven days’ time.
Sunrise over the Costa Rican mountains: This picture is important because, to me, it both shows Costa Rica’s beauty and conveys the emotions of what Costa Rica is. The sky is calm, the mountains are strong, and though there are clouds in the sky the sun still shines through. Just like so many of the amazing people I met there, they don’t let cloudy days get them down. They are extremely proud of everything they have and can provide for their families. The live each moment and don’t waste their time on things that don’t matter.
Hands clasped in a circle: This is a picture of some of the kids at the local church in Heredia. Four of us girls from Washburn spent our late afternoons teaching them games. This is a particular teamwork, problem solving exercise where you clasp hands and have to untangle yourselves into a straight line without letting go of each other’s hands. They especially liked this game.
Me with a few children: A picture of me with some of the children we taught games to at the church. A 180 from the mistrust and caution on these children’s faces we saw the first day we introduced ourselves.
A young girl: A young girls eyes us in wariness as we give her a bag with lunch in it and bracelets while visiting her home.
A young girl’s foot, already covered in dirt from working in the coffee fields that morning, next to the sparkling white tennis shoe she is receiving.