Back from Mexico

After 10 of some of the most exhausting, fun, and rewarding days of my life, I find myself back in Eugene, sitting in front of my computer, feeling a little overwhelmed at the prospect of jumping back into the blogosphere after an almost completely internet and technology-free week and a half.

Mexico was amazing. Never before have I been honored to help lead such a remarkable group of high school students and adults. The kids this year were truly unique. To be honest, I think high school and college comprise periods in our life in which we are possibly the most self-centered and oblivious to the thoughts and needs of others. I don’t mean this to sound as bad as it does. I just mean that in my experience, ESPECIALLY in college, we are taught to think primarily about ourselves – who we are as individuals, what it is we want to do with our lives, and what we must do to achieve our own personal goals. We don’t yet have spouses or families to be responsible to; nor do we own homes or hold steady jobs. We don’t HAVE to think about anyone above ourself. In some ways, that’s good. It’s important to discover and establish ourselves in the world. Putting yourself first isn’t always wrong.

But on the trip this year, the collection of selfless, compassionate, accepting and respectful souls blew me away. Despite it being a group of nearly 50 high schoolers, I didn’t see any cliques! No alienation or social ostracism. Everyone genuinely seemed to engage with everyone else. And everyone benefited from that.

My role on the trip this year was also a step up from the past. It was my first year as a “site foreman,” which means I was responsible for the construction of a standard Amor home (11′ x 22′, 2 windows, 1 door). I was the second female site leader and the youngest ever in our group’s 20 year history of doing the trip. As such, I had high expectations for myself; I wanted to prove to myself that I had the gumption, leadership, and expertise to do a good job. I’m proud to say we finished it, with time to spare! In 4 years we haven’t finished a home, but this year 3 of the 4 site leaders finished. A testament to our group I think. As a site leader, I was surprised by how mentally exhausting the process was, but also surprised by how naturally much of it came to me. I’m glad I accepted the invitation to serve the group this way.

With regards to my professional interest in events and relationship management, I think I learned a lot from this experience. Too much to relate here. But here a few quick tidbits:

  • Engaging in hands-on activities is great for building relationships. The necessity of cooperation and teamwork allows individuals to interact positively in pursuit of a common goal. Students and adults who might not have spoken to one another otherwise developed friendships through challenges like building a wall together.
  • Be honest and open about setbacks. When our bus broke down on the trip down through California, the students were less put-out by the inconvenience of it than by the leaders’ lack of communication about the problem. Admitting a mistake garners respect; hiding it hurts trust.
  • Put faith in others (but don’t be afraid to check-in, advise, and supervise). I was nervous about trusting the completion of certain elements of building the house to students; then I reminded myself that as a high school student I was capable of many of these tasks. I was not disappointed in the work of the students under my supervision but under their own leadership. The finished house looked great!
  • Love conquers all. Okay this one’s pretty cheesy. But all I mean is that, at the end of the day, it’s who we are as people that matters. If we are loving, ultimately we will do good. The talent, the brains, the experience – that’s all important. But the first, last, and most important quality we must have, in order to truly succeed, is love. Love to make us understanding of others, responsive to their needs, patient and respectful, and invested in their personal outcome.

I think that’s enough for now. Stay tuned for my updates on the job search. Hint: it’s most definitely still on.

Here are some more beautiful images from the trip, courtesy of Spencer Mason Roberts:

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