I pulled up into a small village on the outskirts of Antigua, Guatemala. It was your typical little community. The dust from the dirt road was settling as I stepped out of the car. Metal sheets used as the siding for tiny huts, buildings laying in ruins from past hurricanes, stray dogs howling at the now silent car was my surrounding scene.
You’ve seen this before.
When you turn on the TV, images like this flash across your screen all the time. I think often we become numb to the feeling of those in poverty, because we are over saturated with images of these types of environments. We forget that those people we see on the screen aren’t CGI creations or paid actors, but real breathing people.
This wasn’t my first time in a place like this, and it won’t be my last.
Walking around, I started capturing images with my camera. Our main goal for the day, was to open up a fresh water well at an elementary school. The students that attended the school, hadn’t had a clean working well in years. Running rampant, the children knowing that a group of “missionaries” were coming could not contain their excitement. As we unloaded bounce houses, trampolines, face painting material and all sorts of other outreach items the anticipation grew.
As I walked up to the main school building, I noticed pine needles scattered all over the slab of concrete. “Hmm, that’s interesting” I muttered, not thinking twice about it. Kicking some out of my way, I loaded all my gear inside one of the class rooms.
As soon as my gear was safety stashed, I started looking for the action that needed to be recorded. That’s when I noticed a little girl carefully placing pine needles on the bare spot that I had created with my shoe.
Why was she taking the time to do this?
Then it hit me.
She was honoring the visitors. The pine needles were her way of keeping our shoes from getting dirty. I conferred with my translator to make sure I was understanding what was happening, and I was right. She was honoring us with all that she had.
I suddenly felt horrible for disrupting all her hard work. With one swift careless move of my foot, I took advantage of that little girl’s intentions.
Honor sometimes is shown in the little things.
She finished the placement of the pine needles, and retreated to the wall, placing her back against it.
Out of respect, she laid her pine needles down. It was that moment looking at that little girl, I took a mental picture. Sitting down my camera and blocking all the other distractions. The pictures could wait, I needed to be present in this moment.
Sometimes memories are far better quality, than the pictures we take.