Pedro Arrupe S.J. defined men or women for others as, “men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ”. I had always agreed with this teaching, but was never exactly sure how to truly exemplify it until I came to Peru. I had always felt that I needed to do some extraordinary act of service to justify my want to help others. However, as I worked with people living in extreme poverty in Peru, I began to realize that service is a small part of how we live for God through others. It is in fact the relationships that we foster with others that defines our connection to God and our true character.
When we arrived in Peru, I got off the plane and was instantly shocked by the diversity of the people around us. Save the rest of our group, it appeared as if nobody around us spoke English. I felt as if the 17 of us were alone in a cold, dark Peru. However, I was instantly proved wrong when Señor Cordova began warmly talking to the baggage lady at the airport. While all of us were concerned about getting our bags and getting to the van waiting for us outside, Señor made sure that all of us found it a necessity to say thank you to the lady who helped us getting our luggage. Although it seemed a little odd, I found it interesting how someone who normally receives little acknowledgment seemed to deserve all of the respect in the world from Señor. Although I was seemingly unaware of it at the time, this encounter would foreshadow the month long lesson that I would receive from the people of Peru on the importance of my relationships with others.
I came to Peru hoping that service of the poor through manual labor would help me define the man I hope to become in life. ”Maybe working in “the ditch” will give me an idea of how I can leave my mark on the world with the rest of my life”, I thought to myself as I pulled on my paint stained work pants in Arequipa. But as we arrived to the San Francisco Circa school and saw the smiling faces of the children eager for our arrival, I knew I had been completely wrong. As I saw the face of little Jhon in the classroom, I instantly realized that he was ten times more important that the wall we were building outside. Manual labor comes and goes, but the relationships we form and the knowledge we share lasts forever. I learned right there that we will never be fulfilled by the work that we do, but rather the people that we help and positively impact. Because eventually one day the wall we built will fall, but hopefully, the hope we inspired in those children to do great things remains with them for the rest of their lives.
This ability to do good and connect with others does not come with a barrier of language. To be upfront, nobody on this trip is fluent in Spanish except for Cordova. However, because of the kindness we have been shown, the majority of the guys would say that they have helped people in need regardless, and made relationships that they will treasure forever. Whether this be with Cesar, Grower, Father Eddie or even Maria, the cook at the San José house in Mejia, we all would all say that we could all trust these people 100%. And indeed we have trusted these people, most of the time, with our lives and safety. And in return we have received nothing but love and true kindness. Because at the end of the day, we will not leave Peru with life long memories of the work we have done or the places we have seen, rather, the relationships we have formed and the love we have received. These will be etched into our character forever.