Question of the Day: How does development connect with the mentalities and cultural values of communities?
As the group moved into its third and final week of the trip, as the community service project begins to take center stage in the mind’s and heart’s of the students, I felt it was important to slow down a bit and take stock.
In two weeks this trip has become far more than just travel and far more influential than the removed experience of a classroom setting. As I get the chance to talk with these wonderful young people and share in their experiences each day I have begun to feel less like a leader and more like a peer. Their maturity and knowledge was not something I took for granted before, but the extent of their growth and development as young people has impressed me very much.It’s strange, but I think fitting, that our day’s theme seems to not only reflect on this growth in the sense of global and local communities, but it something that I am recognizing take place in each one of them.
For a community, be it large or small, global or local, development is a process than can be just as destructive as it can be productive. Development can be deforestation, or the loss of unique cultural elements like language and medicinal practices, as the needs of the global community sweep down upon once isolated peoples and places and press them with a world of wants and needs. Development can also be bringing much needed knowledge and infrastructure to a community that is, instead, marginalized by environmental, economic and social forces beyond their control.
In an more complicated sense, though, neither of those outcomes is inherently good or bad. Development is change. We are all familiar with the adages about change, that change is inevitable, and change is both life and death. The one that comes to mind, now, though is – “You can not step twice into the same river.” In the context of Nicaragua, and of Esteli, the students are recognizing the truth of this adage each day they reach out to discover more about it.
For me, and I think for them as well, this is also true of the young adults they are becoming. They will not be the same people that left two weeks ago when they return to their families and friends, their homes and schools. They will live different lives in the States than they might have otherwise.
Through their efforts and sacrifices, through the obstacles and with perseverance, these young people continue to step into new rivers, and become them, too. Old concepts of the world, of their lives, of the lives of their parents are being destroyed. Torn down, at least in part, are things in their lives once taken for granted. In this sense, development is destructive, but the change is good.
In place, where once stood the effects of modern conveniences and the once unappreciated good fortune of their birth and upbringing, these students have build up a sense of desire and responsibility. Ideals and idealism are being constructed on new foundations of knowledge and love. The truth of the world and the necessity of the dedication necessary to affect it are becoming powerfully understood. Here again is development, and here again the change is good.
Today, as we listened to our speakers from ISNAYA share with us the circumstances that brought about their organization and careers, and as we toured their organic farm of medicinal plants, I got the sense that their were more things growing, more being planted, than seeds of basil, lemon balm and passion fruit. As I drank the herbal teas and shared a moment of calm with the students after a series of stressful days and nights, I felt a sense of warmth and comfort that was more than just the effect of warm water and dried plant.
Peace and development have been taking shape in us – gestating, sprouting, reaching toward cleaner air and purer light. And as these seeds, now growing, approach their time to bloom, as these rivers wind their path onward, I thought it was important to look back toward the source, and appreciate the soil from which this growth has been made possible.
When we return home in the coming days, know that the greetings you receive from us, and the good-byes we leave each other are all part of the process. Another change that is both a breaking and a building; both different and the same. In each embrace we will share, as in each moment we share now, know that we are expressing a thank you.
Thank you for this chance to change. Thank you for changing with us.