Having been on other immersion trips such as Guatemala and KBI, I did not think this El Salvador experience would have a sustaining impact on me; I was completely wrong. Not only has this trip enlightened me on the realities the Salvadoran people experience everyday, but it has also redefined what I think a hero is.
Yesterday we visited the Jesuit University of Central America in San Salvador. It is the sight where the Salvadoran Army brutally murdered six Jesuit priests and two women in 1989. I knew walking through the Jesuit garden would be impactful, but I did not experience the emotions I thought I would. While I did feel sadness and also anger, most of all, I felt inspired.
The priests knew how dangerous it was to be at the University during the civil war, yet they felt called to serve the people of El Salvador. They fought for the rights of those who could not fight for themselves. They were not doing it to one day be remembered, but rather because they truly loved the El Salvadoran people. I no longer see sports stars, celebrities, or even the military as heroes, but rather those people who stand at the foot of the cross with the marginalized.
In my own life, I have always felt some pressure to follow a certain path. While that path has never been explicitly defined, I have always assumed my life will involve getting a degree, getting a high paying job, and supporting a large family. While these can all be good things, I think that too often in society, people look up to those with a lot of money, or power, or influence. They want to emulate or even become those people in their own lives. I have come to see my heroes or role models as people like Oscar Romero and the Jesuit martyrs, and I hope that others can do the same.
We should want to be known for our humility and compassion rather than wealth and power. My parents are so loving and supporting and in no way have they ever told me that is the life that they want me to live. However, through social, familial, and other constructs, I have always felt like that is the path I am set on. I find myself slipping into a sense of complacency with this as well.
Whenever I have thought about breaking from this path, I eventually just revert back to the same mindset. Whether my boomerang self-expectations are because of my brothers, or the rhetoric I hear from my friends about their dream lives, I have always carried the burden of expectations that I live my life a certain way.
To be clear, you can still do great things with a business degree or any degree for that matter, but I know that God is calling me to something more than “just a business degree.”
All of us on this trip have the capability to thrive in any field of study and live “safe” lives, but after experiencing the devastation and heartbreak that is this El Salvador trip, we know that our lives must be centered around helping the oppressed people of the world. I challenge everyone to redefine what they think a hero is and who their role models are. Then, they should do everything possible to emulate those people’s lives in whatever walk of life they choose.