Everything is the same, only different.
No matter how many times I visit Guatemala, I am struck by both the similarities and the differences between "us" and "them." Much of human behavior is universal, but growing up in poverty with poor health and limited education may affect life choices that individuals have to make.
Due to the "accident of birth," my soul was born into a middle class American family and not into the developing world. How can I relate to the life experiences of the people that I am trying to help? Do I have the right to judge the behaviors they exhibit and the life choices that they make? The best that I can hope to do is to watch, listen and learn.
When children come into our clinic with abdominal pain, cough, headaches and rash, we have consider factors in their environment such diet, parasites, dehydration and stress from poor school performance or family violence. We have no access to their prior medical history, which increases the challenge. We try to give them the health information that they need to deal with some of these issues, but changing habits here is as hard as it is at home.
The patience of people here is remarkable! On Sunday I waited in long lines for my three flights down and a seven hour layover in Guatemala City and I was not a happy camper. This week we have long lines of Guatemalans waiting so patiently in hopes of seeing a doctor. I don't know if this is because they live in the moment and accept what God gives them, or a learned sense of hopelessness makes them seem patient. I enjoyed the previous post from a medical student talking about the hopefulness of the younger girls compared with teenagers. Maybe if we can help and keep our promises with these kids, their hope won't die. Just by coming here, we show them that there is hope and they are loved and that their life has meaning.
Each trip presents new challenges and we learn so much! It is remarkable how much SewHope has progressed in the past ten years. With God's help, I can only imagine how much more we can accomplish in the next ten years.
"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8 NIV
Dr. Gary Collins is a Toledo, OH-based pediatrician and a member of SewHope's Board of Directors. He has joined SewHope for numerous trips to Guatemala, and is at the Santa Ana clinic this week, helping to care for our youngest patients (and teaching some medical students along the way!).