Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reflections

Although I don’t feel too different as a person, when I think about what I have learned thus far from the people I have gotten to know, I realize I have discovered more than just how Hondurans live their life; I have determined a lot more about how I want to live my own. I was talking with two volunteers that if we were to go back to the states tomorrow, would we be the same person? I know that if I went back now and turned into the person that I used to be, I would be disappointed with myself. From my other blog entries, you all know that every day here in Honduras I am reminded of how essential it is to maintain patience. But in order to be able to work patiently with others, it’s fundamental to first learn to accept every person for whom they are; and I think that is one aspect about me that, I am pleased to say, has changed the most. In the states, I remember getting frustrated when someone didn’t understand my point of view or why someone couldn’t do a task that I figured would be easy for anyone to complete. But sometimes what comes easily to me may be awkward and uncomfortable for someone else; and I know that sounds so basic, but I don’t think I ever really appreciated that until being here. We are all characterized by distinct interests, levels of education, habits, and manners in which we were brought up which define our personalities, our abilities, and our imperfections. But these differences are what make it possible for us to learn something new or be inspired by every individual we encounter. No one is better than another because there is no scale or classification system that can put us in order from top to bottom; we’re all different in too many ways. Sure, we have classified everything from individuals by their social class, race, or gender to whole communities as developed or undeveloped countries; but that’s because we like order in our lives and we have allowed this labeling to engrain stereotypes in our minds that tell us that a better person can easily be defined by A, B, and C.

At the second meeting I had with the women’s group interested in the improved stoves, I was put off that the women were so reluctant to form a board of directors. “How are we going to get anything done if no one wants to do anything?” I thought. But then, we did a self-esteem activity I read about where we stood in a circle and all the women said aloud one thing they were proud of. I was astounded to hear that for some of the women, this meeting was the first meeting they had ever attended in their life. The failure to form a board of directors was not because these women don’t want to help me; they’re just scared to stand out in any way because they’re accustomed to a life where leadership has never played a role. One woman was brave enough to declare that she would be president (so far she’s our board of directors), followed by the statement that, “But you all can’t laugh at me when I talk during the meetings”. In the states, there usually are various nominees for a president, vice-president and other group leaders. Here, just coming to a meeting is an accomplishment in itself. So instead of concluding that these women don’t want to do any work and giving up on them, what I need to do is effect a closer relationship with them to give and receive advice on how we can keep developing this project with expectations that are appropriate for everyone.

Likewise, this meeting introduced me to a personal weak spot that I have, but have not noticed in other community leaders that have led other meetings I have attended. For me, I´ve learned that I’m considerably inflexible in that I try hard to keep things going as planned but when I start to feel like I’m losing control, I become very anxious and tense. Don Virgilio is president of a large irrigation project that has been going on here for two years and benefits over 135 people. Although he only has a sixth grade education, he has a natural calmness and stress-free manner of handling large meetings that I hope I can develop over time. When everyone starts shouting in the middle of the meetings because it’s basically impossible to keep 135 people happy and under control, he still manages to get things settled without ever losing his temper . . . without even raising his voice really! Finally, I think I am better at accepting people for who they are because the attitude of the people here is that that’s what you do. I have become well integrated within my community because the people have accepted me for who I am, and thus my eyes have really been opened to the importance of practicing this basic principle.

So the next time you’re working with, for example, a co-worker and you’re feeling annoyed that they can’t comprehend what seems a basic concept to you, sacrifice a few minutes to catch them up and let them set the pace. Is it really worth it to complete a job alone while discouraging another, or would it be better to accept that person for their differences and you make a change that perhaps they can’t? Only when we can accept people for who they are can we work collectively and fruitfully. I think sometimes we get caught up in the movement forward that we forget about those that helped us get there. Maybe you couldn’t be as good of a person as you are today without the kind words from that least expected person.

2 comments:

Mom said...

So much to do, so much to learn! Wow, how exciting for those women who have gained something huge just by coming to a meeting for the first time. And hooray for the woman who stepped up to be the President...and Board!

Keep up the good work. Love you, MOM

Shade said...

things arnt suppose to run on time in Central America. They just kind of happen.