Returning Home: Post Trip Reflection

It’s all too familiar. That warm feeling of success and inspiration freshly pumping after a transformational service trip. Yet simultaneously an emptiness begins to form and gradually grow larger as we get closer to home. Here we go, we tell ourselves, back to reality.

Yet we don’t often realize that these conflicting feelings stem from the fact that we live in a bubble. A bubble that blinds us, separates us, and protects us from the harsh conditions that persist in developing countries like Guatemala. Political violence? Domestic abuse? Poverty? Here in the developed world, we have an abundance of resources – free resources – to support almost any and every social cause. More importantly, we have institutions that are committed to making these resources available to us.

#Firstworldproblems are our reality. But it’s not the only reality. Yes, it’s a struggle when we can’t find anything decent to eat in the fridge. But let’s remember that we can drive to Chipotle and grab a quick, cheap dinner. Problem solved. We dread having to return to our bubble because we now realize the comparable weight of our problems to what we saw. However, I don’t think we have to feel guilty for what we have compared to the Mayans in the Highlands. It’s about perspective.

Be conscious of your reality.

Be conscious of theirs.

Sometimes we forget the experiences we had and how much they’ve changed us, but it’s good to remember as we return home to our own lives that a big part of service is reflection.  Back in 2006, Carolyn went on an HSP Alternative Spring Break for the first time. Her fresh and innocent way of beginning to question the world is one that I hope resonates in all of us.

Today we are finishing up our second stove. The work was a lot easier because our second house had concrete floors. The whole group took a break for lunch together. The women from the village got together and made some lunch for us. It was quite tasty but I could not finish the huge serving they gave me. I started looking around and realized that these women just prepared enough food to last a family at least a month.

I felt so bad about my leftovers …I wanted to take my plate of food and give it to that family, but I know that would not help them. It’s strange. We, as rich Americans, see these families as very, very poor. But, are they?

The kids seemed so happy. Maybe they were excited and curious about us, but to have so little and be so happy is a goal I have always had.

Laura Catania