Eso es alcanzar lo más alto,

lo que tal vez nos dará el Cielo:

no admiraciones ni victorias

sino sencillamente ser admitidos

como parte de una Realidad innegable,

como las piedras y los árboles.

Jorge Luis Borges

Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923)

This is the best that can happen,

What heaven perhaps will grant us:

Not to be wondered at or required

To succeed

But simply to be let in

As part of an undeniable Reality,

Like stones of the road, like trees.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Being a messenger of peace

I’m sitting at the ANADES guesthouse getting ready for another week of work after a relaxing weekend.  I’ve noticed that once I’ve dived into the week and am surrounded by the work and the people I’m working with, things are fine and I get by with my limited language skills.  It’s the time for reflection during the weekend that is a bit more difficult.  Take for example my mild panic attack this afternoon.  I was watching a movie that I normally would enjoy, but today I couldn’t really get into it because my mind was thinking about too many things.  I paused it halfway through to go get some pop, came back to watch it again, and then started to feel really anxious.  I realized that even though I really have nothing to worry about in the big scheme of things, I was (am) nervous about facing another full week of constantly straining to understand every second or third word, and then based on that, choosing the most likely of the possible things that are being said to me, and then coming up with a response that makes some grammatical sense.  I’ll stress that in my mind this all needs to be done in a very short period of time so that nobody clues in to how completely lost I am in this country and this language.

So then I plugged in my Rosetta Stone computer Spanish course which really doesn’t help at all except to prove to myself that I am doing everything I can to make this work.  And then as I write this I am thinking, “so what happens if you come across as weak or not in control or scared?”  It’s easy enough to say (theoretically) that I am working with people who face poverty and weakness and probably fear on a regular basis, and what do I think I can possibly share with these people if I can’t recognize and accept those things in my own life.  It’s an entirely different thing to intentionally shed the mask of control and accept that I will screw up many times.

This past Friday ANADES had a service/mass in honour of Oscar Romero, who I’ve written about in the past.  We reflected on a question by Romero that had to do with what it means to be a messenger of hope, today, in our everyday lives and the lives of the people we interact with.  Well, I certainly don’t have any shiny new techniques that I can pull out of my toolkit and start social working people in Spanish with.  At this point I think all I may have is my wit and charm (which, truth be told, haven’t really opened too many doors yet) and my ignorance of their language, history and culture.  Is it possible for me to be a messenger of hope by accepting my weakness and allowing them to teach me?  Hopefully.  For starters, it might help to put us on more equal ground.  It may also give others a belief in their own gifts as they teach me. 

Maybe things this week will be alright.  Maybe I’ll fall flat on my face.  Maybe somewhere in between those two I’ll spend less time worrying about losing face and more time enjoying the time I have with the people here.  When I think about being here in El Salvador, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have been given this opportunity.  I’ll close with a quote from Oscar Romero:

"Beautiful is the moment in which we understand that we are no more than an instrument of God; we live only as long as God wants us to live; we can only do as much as God makes us able to do; we are only as intelligent as God would have us be"


  1. I do enjoy reading your blog! Very reflective and insightful post. And I, for one, find you quite witty and charming!!