The front of the piggy bank from Juan Carlos has a woman who is wearing a traditional headdress. A woman actually showed us how to wrap it around her head while we were sightseeing one of our last days in Guatemala. Juan Carlos picked this bank because of that memory.


The back of the coin commemorates the liberation of Guatemala, in 1827. Juan Carlos had shared with our group the story of the coin; although Andres was our guide, Juan Carlos worked as a tourist bus driver all year long, and so he had some stories that he had honed over the years.

Juan Carlos handed me the piggy bank in a plastic grocery bag on our last full day in Guatemala; first thing, after we had boarded the bus. It’s a small memento, but it has great meaning to me.

Every evening, when I call to mind the going-ons of my day, the piggy bank reminds me of that clarity I knew in July while I listened to a man, to a woman, to a child, share his or her story. The piggy bank reminds me of the generosity of a man with a huge spirit, who shared just a bit of his story with me. The piggy bank reminds me of my poor Spanish and the patience all of the people had with me. It reminds me of what grounds, what matters, what connects.

And for all that, I am thankful.

6 months

Nearly 6 months ago, I journeyed to Guatemala with International Samaritan, an organization that specifically works with those who live in garbage dump communities. There are several places where I’ve written about life in the garbage dump: here, and here, and here are some of them.  When I left, I knew that more than the effect I would have on the people (through building roofs, working with kids, etc), the transformation in my own life would be immeasurable.

I gave the gift of sweat equity, listening, and shared bread. The people there gave me the gift of shared stories and transformation that still continues to trickle into my daily living. Now, perhaps, Juan Carlos, Andres, or even Juana, has experienced tangible changes in their lives as a result of our interactions. But, how many service trips did the three of them (and all the others) encounter over the last year? Over the last 5 years? Can I say with any assurance that I had an impact on their lives? When all is told, although I helped build a roof and clear a courtyard, those whom I had gone to serve, in fact, served me.

Was this a surprise to me? Not really. Continue reading