Two summers ago, I went to Guatemala and I realized the people there are very different from the people in America. Not in the sense that they look different, live in extreme poverty, and quite literally have next to nothing. No. It was a ‘different’ that made me forget all of that. It was a ‘different’ that made me reflect on my own home - where our streets are not poverty stricken and even those who are in poverty have more than these people. It was a different that made me realize how much we actually don’t have.
When I stepped outside the airport in Guatemala City, I expected something like the airport in Chicago or Detroit. Big, very established, and clean. I was shocked when I saw an extreme opposite: buildings crumbling, trash everywhere, and people with no homes lingering (but not begging). As I got deeper into the small cities of Guatemala, I began to realize that these people had nothing. They were fortunate if they could get a ride into a bigger city for work – very fortunate if they had their own transportation. Families of eight were living in a one-room home with one, maybe two beds. This shocking reality isn’t what had the most impact on me, though. It was the amount of joy these people had with how little they had. It was the amount of kindness they had with one another and strangers like myself.
I could not walk passed someone on the streets of Guatemala without them grinning from ear to ear and genuinely saying, “Hola”. These people extended such kindness in every situation, whether it be helping others with something, just speaking with others, playing with their children, or eating your food, these people showed how much they appreciated you. Not because we were helping them out, rather they just appreciated people and relationships. They treated one another in the same way. Kindness was overflowing from these people.
Before I never noticed how much Americans lack in the kindness department. We have anything we want at our fingertips but for some reason can’t be as kind as these people from Guatemala. I think we have so much that is accessible to us that we can sometimes forget how important it is to be kind to one another. I’m not saying we should all live in poverty or sell everything that we have. I am saying be conscious of who is around us. To look up from our devices, unplug our earbuds and say hi to the people walking by. We should go help the person whose papers blew out of their notebook instead of walk past them. I think our campus, our city, and our country would improve if we just took the time to be kind.
A student of Journalism and Mass Communication, Summer Sunnock is from Marshall. She is passionate for writing about change, responsibility, and diversity. This semester, The Echo will be displaying her view and encouraging words.