On the roof of a small hut, with a machete in my hand thousands of miles away from home, working in what felt like 150 degrees; I stood here never knowing that this trip to Tadzebichen, Mexico would change my life forever. The smell in the air brought memories of the forest after an afternoon rainstorm, while the blueness of sky took away any worries that I may have had. Fresh wind gently blew against my face. On my service project in this poverty -stricken village hundreds of miles from any civilization; I began to hear God speak to me.
The villagers walked around without any shoes; they were dirty; they wore the same clothes everyday, and they slept on hammocks. There was no electricity or modernized inventions to make life easier. Everything seemed to have been the same for hundreds of years. There were still wells in the village from which they retrieved their water and their tiny huts were made from the branches, mud, and leaves that surrounded their environment. I wondered to myself what good could be found in such a society. As I lived there, I saw the kindness of the people. The people of the village did simple, but heart touching things such as give us big hugs that needed no words to explain the love that they felt for us. They treated everyone in the village as their own family. Everywhere I looked I saw smiles and happiness by the compassion that was in the air. The people’s gratefulness for our help was indescribably overwhelming, similar to a thick quilt on a cold winter night that feels your entire body with warmth. I experienced the emotional connection to the people and felt a newer, higher level of happiness than I have ever experienced before in life being revealed to me.
Another dynamic revelation that was taking place was how grateful I was for my life. Away from everything at home was making me realize how blessed I was. I am usually so busy and never really realize everything that I have in my life. In the mornings in Tadzibechen, we would hear a pig screaming. As we walk out side the huge pig would be tied to a tree and one of my classmates would take the spear and stab it in its heart. Afterward one of us, usually I, would take a razor and shave the hair off the pig’s body and prepare it to cook. All of this just for their citizens would have meat. When I eat a piece of bacon now, I am thankful in realizing all I had to do is buy it from the store. This along with many other things that I was experiencing on this trip really allowed me to be a more thankful person.
Despite my many accomplishes in life, my accomplishment of helping others that were in drastic need of help was most fulfilling. In school, I have been part of the Students Across Cultures club since the ninth grade; and now as a senior, I am the president of the club that organizes functions promoting diversity throughout New Orleans. For example, I was on the planning committee for the First National Forum on Diversity and Poverty at Loyola University. I am blessed as an athlete, allowing me to have lettered twice in Track and Field as a captain. I am honored to have been elected to the student council as senior class Rep-At-Large. As a school leader, I am responsible for contributing to all the functions that are put on for the student body. I am on the peer support team which travels to lower grade level classes to speak to them about how to overcome everyday problems. I am an active member on the Mock Trail Club and compete against local and nation wide schools. I also am an Advanced Sells Rep. for Vector marketing and sold nearly fifteen thousand dollars worth of Cutco in my first 4 weeks working for the company. Although all of these things are really great and bring happiness to me, the happiness I was experiencing on this trip out weighed it all.
I learned that we do not need riches and fame to be happy. It is not about what accomplishments we have attained but about what we have accomplished for others that is the key to happiness and success. I found that I was much happier volunteering my time in the pursuit of helping make life easier for others. I volunteer my time at my church every week where I am the Junior Deacon President. There, I lecture younger kids through out the city on current issues that we face in everyday life. The children that participate with the Junior Deacon program at my church are mainly inner city kids from low income families that depend on our meetings to make it from week to week. I mentor and discuss with them about school, friends, pressure, drugs, and faith along with many other difficulties that they may be facing. As a Junior Deacon I get the chance to directly affect others in a positive way that may very well redirect the courses of their lives. Things like this were much more fulfilling than any golden plaque or award that has ever been presented to me with my name on it. Involvement with the Youth Rebuilding New Orleans Club also brought me this inner peacefulness. Spending weekends with other local teenagers for the one purpose of helping restore our city by taking out time to help one individual at a time slowly put back the puzzles of their life is priceless. This trip was slowly revealing the graces of life to me.
Simply concluded, life is about caring for the other man while being grateful for what you have; and, so, I continued to work on the roof, sweating pounds of sweat, thankful for this moment and experience that would change me forever.