The Pursuit of Happiness

David - New Ulm, Minnesota
Entered on December 12, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: humanism

My mother is full of amazing ideas. She thinks them up, embraces them enthusiastically, and sees them through to the end. She’s amazing. One of her many ideas, was for her and my stepfather to take my three sisters and me to Guatemala for six weeks to work in a mission.

You see, she’s a doctor, and as such she feels like she needs to use her gifts for the betterment of society as a whole. Now that I’m out of the house and in college she plans to join Doctors Without Borders and go to Africa for six months. My stepfather, also a doctor, loves to travel. Although he won’t be going to Africa anytime soon, he also feels a need to use his talents to help those less fortunate than us.

Now, when I first got to San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala, I was terrified. I was an outsider in a different world. I was born and raised in a small town in southern Minnesota that’s full of white people. I was comfortable there. I was not comfortable in Guatemala.

I was in the fifth grade and I loved the idea of missing six weeks of school. They gave me homework to do, of course, but I didn’t care. It was freedom. My mother always offered us a lot of freedom when we were in Guatemala. She just wanted us to be happy.

My sisters and I would explore the extremely poor city. The children would always stare at us and I didn’t feel like I had anything in common with them. I couldn’t speak their language, I didn’t know anything about their country, and I was a different color. I was alienated and alone.

We would take little trips with the mission to poor villages in the area. My parents would offer medical help to all the adults and children. They made me uncomfortable and I stayed close to my parents. I helped out a little, weighing and measuring the children before they went to see my parents. I was proud of my work, but it grew tiresome.

Eventually I worked up the courage to go outside with the children from the village. At first it didn’t feel right and I was scared because they were all surrounding me and asking me questions that I obviously couldn’t answer. When I didn’t answer, they went back to playing soccer and some of the children invited me to join. I had played soccer at home. I had found something that I had in common with the children. We laughed and ran around until my parents were finished.

I realized, and believe to this day, that people have more in common with each other than they think. No matter what color we are, or where we’re from, we all want to laugh and have fun. We all want to be happy.