How Did I End Up Here?

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Here I am stuck in the third world.  Three years pinned down with no guarantee of electricity, dry streets, or connection to the outside world.  Maybe stuck and pinned aren’t the correct words, but sometimes they’re the only way to describe how I feel.  I felt stuck at times during my first year in Xela, when I didn’t feel like I had any friends.  I felt stuck when my friends’ weddings passed me by and I couldn’t go.  I’ve missed at least two weddings and one birth; not fun.  And I felt stuck last June when tropical storm Agatha wouldn’t let me leave; all I wanted to do was be home with my family.  It was as if I had my hand pinned between a rock and I couldn’t move, just like Aaron Ralston, who’s harrowing struggle with a rock was the subject of the Oscar nominated movie “127 Hours” staring James Franco.  Fortunately over the course of two and a half years I’ve realized what a blessing it has been to be stuck in Xela.  And after watching “127 Hours,” I’m glad I didn’t have to give up an arm to realize the importance of having a community.  I’ve celebrated three birthdays away from my family and the friends I grew up with, and it’s been hard not having them around.  But it has also shown me how blessed I am here in Guatemala.  I am not alone.

I came to Guatemala as an individual, all alone.  Unlike Aaron Ralston, I didn’t come as a man who wanted solitude, dreaming of living life on my own, but as an individual who wanted to see what life outside of the states had to offer.  From the very start, when I was only 24, I knew I needed people around me to make my life worth living.  Now I am 27 and I feel like I have more of what it takes to be a man than I did when I first found myself stuck in the guat.  I know being a man doesn’t mean doing everything on my own, but having a community to share with.

Most people would say Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers are men, despite both having played for the Greenbay Packers.   According to stats I’ve read about Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, both won their only Super Bowls at 27.  At 27 I have yet to win a Super Bowl.  But who knows I might move back to the states and join the Broncos and win multiple Super Bowls.  If men are judged on what they have done, then am I a man?  Sadly, I haven’t won a Super Bowl yet.  I could win multiple Super Bowls (Be better than Brett and Aaron) but that’s not what would define me.  You know what I have done though, what defines me?  I have begun to write again.  I have decided to go after my dreams, not Aaron’s or Brett’s.  Last month I applied to a creative writing program.  If I am accepted or not, at 27 I know that I am doing what it takes to be a man.  Each day I set out to love those around me in the best way that I can.  Because maybe they need to know that they need someone.  I am adding my life to the community around me and hopefully with a little love mixed in I’ll end up at age 28 stuck right where God wants me.

Here are some of the fun memories from my 27th birthday.

-On my Birthday I was showered with hugs and choruses of Happy Birthday (both in English and Spanish).  I think my favorite gift was when I walked into the elementary lunch room and the Kindergartners jumped up with excitement and started singing to me.

-That night most of my friends, most everyone on the Inter-American staff, came out to have dinner at Don Rodrigos, a little restaurant that serves beer and burgers.  I had a sandwich and an Orange Crush, ha!

-On Saturday night my students, most of the high schoolers, took me out to pizza.  Sometimes the freshmen boys, especially Skyy and Jose Pab, are a little crazy, but they know how to make someone feel appreciated.  And I am grateful for them.

-On Sunday I went ziplining with Jon, Laura, Kacey, Blake, Amy, Fernando, Stephanie, Mike, and Karen at Velo Xtremo, just a few of the people my life has been mixed with.  We all risked our lives and had a zipping good time doing it!

Life would not be worth living if I didn’t have all of you, my readers and my friends in Guatemala, around me.  Thank you for the part you have played in my past 27 years.  Here’s to many more!!

Groundhog Day: Your Life Will Soon Be Gone

Like a rolling river, days pass into weeks and weeks into months and months into years and years into decades and so on and so on into the sea.  From the cradle to the grave our lives have a finite number of days.  But what if we didn’t die?  What if like in the movie “Groundhog Day” we lived our lives forever?

Phil Connors, in the movie, must live one day over and over and over again, maybe up to 1,000 years of repeated days.  An eternity.  Phil, yearns for finality.  His eternal existence depresses him to a point where death is preferable to monotony.  (Would we wish for the same?  Or maybe we should take joy in death because it brings us closer to God.) As only comedies can do Phil’s repeated failures at death seem inocent and bring quite a laugh.  But the fact that he wants death is telling.  Just as it is natural for a river to flow down into the sea it is natural for us to grow older and to die.  But because Phil can’t die he must live his repeated day.  And by living he comes to a point where he wants to grow old.  His strongest desire is to change, but to achieve that desire he realizes he must make each day special.  He must begin to love, but not the me first need based love, the unselfish love that places others needs ahead of his own needs.  Once he starts living for others his endless number of days, which must have been terribly monotonous at times (imagine seeing the same people struggle with the same problems day in and day out), become special.  Once he starts living for the people of Punxatawney his attitude toward them changes.  Where there was once hate there is now love.

I know I am going to die someday.  I have not been stuck in some horrible time warp where I live the same day over and over again.  But sometimes my days can feel that way.  My life in Guatemala can feel extraordinary and some times it can just be plain ordinary.  Every Monday I wake up and go to work.  I teach 2nd grade, 1st grade, and then kindergarten PE.  This repeats again and again.  Is my job a stagnate eddy or a river rolling along to somewhere greater, changing me into a better man.  If it is an eddy my job would be pointless.  If it is a river taking me somewhere then that changes everything.  I believe the only way to know is to answer the question Phil Connors asks, “What would you do with your life if you had one day to live?  What do you want out of life?”

I am starting to feel like I have one more day left to live in Guatemala.  I know I have a couple of months, but those months flow right by like a raging river.  My time in Guatemala is finite.  I feel like I need to live each day to the fullest, because a chance like living in another country and learning another language isn’t something everyone is able to take advantage of.  As my days roll by I want to choose to appreciate where God has me, even the small things.

Teaching Kindergarten PE could be very monotonous.  All they ever want to do is play tag.  Freeze Tag, Zombie Tag, Toilet Tag, Turkey Tag, and Santa Tag!  But often it is the highlight of my day.  Little kids know how to enjoy life.  Before Christmas we were playing Santa tag.  Just incase you’ve forgotten the rules to Santa tag, because it’s been years since you’ve played, let me give you a quick refresher course.  You have two taggers who run around tagging the little kids.  Once a kid is tagged he becomes Santa and has to sit down and say, “ho, ho, ho.”  To become unsantafied another kid, who isn’t a tagger or a Santa, has to come up to the Santa and sit on his or her lap and say,” Santa I want a … for christmas.”  The kids are so enthusiastic about this game they drag me into playing it every time.  They always tag me.  They’re fast little tikes.  “Ho, ho, ho,” I said as one of the little girls rushed up to me and innocently jumped onto my knee.  “Santa,” she said with a sweet little smile.  “I want Mr. Scott for Christmas!” How can my days not feel special after a moment like this?  However, it’s not what I can gain from each day but what I can give.  Another time, while I was teaching Kindergarten, I was complimenting each student.  “Nice jump,” I said to one.  “Great half twist,” I said to another, who I am pretty sure was trying to do a cartwheel (If you ever want to brighten up your day ask a 3-6 year old kid to do a cartwheel).  “I love the color orange,” I said to another.  The little girl quickly responded, “I love you.” Little moments like these make my days special, but if I had one day to live would I spend every moment playing tag with the Kindergarten class?

Pretty soon today will be gone like yesterday is gone and who knows what tomorrow will bring, if anything.  Phil Connors never knew which day would be his last to finally get it right and so by the end of the movie he is doing his all to be the best he could be.   Every day we borrow will bring us closer to the end.  So why not live life as if we had nothing left to lose?  I believe this idea is what brought me down to Guatemala and now I believe it is bringing me back to the US.  Guatemala has been the best thing that has ever happened to me (I’ve changed and grown closer to God and made great friends, who could want more?) and I am excited to see what happens next.  Because I know the life God has given to me is special and even on my dull days I know it’s worth living because I have a chance to show love to everyone around me.  And I am not going to waste my chance to love, because life is a day that won’t last for long.