This is the eighth part of a series about my travels in Mexico last summer, a trip that God used to teach me many lessons in love, humility, beauty, and wealth. If you missed the first seven parts, click here.
I may have left Mexico behind physically, but emotionally, my heart remained under a palm tree for the rest of the summer.
I stared at the computer screen, tears blurring my eyes as I tried in vain to write. I felt sad that day and I wanted to write an equally miserable poem to commiserate but the words just weren’t coming, just like the feelings that Mexico had conjured would not go away. All I could do now was cry…cry for the umpteenth time that summer, cry like I’d done on and off for no reason at all since the middle of July as I thought about the place and the people I’d left behind.
I didn’t understand how I felt at all. I’d had the best trip imaginable yet talking and thinking about it made me cry. It had been almost two months since I’d left but I still felt homesick for Mexico. In my mind I always wanted to tell others about my trip but as soon as I’d start, I would feel hurt, rejected, and sad.
I was upset that I wasn’t in “proper culture shock.” You see, I’d always been told that when you go to a place like Mexico where houses are small and people wear rags, that you’ll come back a changed person. I’d heard that first time missionaries always arrive home with a fresh perspective on wealth because they are touched by the poverty and it makes them believe that they are horribly materialistic and should give up everything. People had told me that I would feel sorry for the people, and that I would cry for the sad, little children without toys and the families that don’t have roofs over their heads.
When I got back, the sentiments were no different. People expected me to be changed in this way and to feel sorry for the people I’d met. One of the most common questions I received was “What did you think of the poverty?”
But in truth, I did not feel sorry for anyone. Although I had seen the small houses and children who begged for hair things and stickers, dirt roads strewn with garbage and a boy who loved his flashlight, I did not cry myself to sleep for it or lecture my family and friends on how they should be more grateful. And to the infamous question I could only say: “What poverty?”
There is no doubt that some people come back affected in these aforementioned ways but I did not. I came back sad but not for the children without toys but because I could no longer see those children. I came back feeling sorry but not over the house sizes, but because the size of my heart was not nearly as big as those of many of the people I’d met. I came back angry but not that I have more money than many in Mexico do but because I valued money more than love.
And why was I in pain over this realization? It was impossible to see then, but I’d left a piece of myself–of my heart, in fact, back in Mexico with the people I’d grown to love in the short time that I was there. I’d scattered pieces of my heart all across the places I’d been and with those that I had met. I was never to retrieve these pieces again and I could only look at them vaguely through the memories I had, the pictures I’d taken, and the rosary around my neck. I had received yes, but I had also given and though this giving had made my heart bigger I needed time to adjust, time to grow. As my mom said, I had growing pains.