I was layering on the decorations on the Christmas tree at the hotel in San Pedro where we live now. Adding more lights, more shiny balls, beads, red and gold wrappy things. One of the workers came by and complimented my work.
I said, “Is it too much?” He said, “No, it is pretty. It’s good that you are doing that.” I said, “In the U.S., Christmas is a time of excess. It’s all about too much. Too many decorations, too much food, too many sweets, too many presents, too much everything.”
I asked him if it was like that in Guatemala, although I already knew the answer. He smiled and said, “Nada.” (nothing)
The Mayans we know have so little. Many live with no electricity, or if they have electricity it’s only lights, no refrigerator, no internet. Nada. Their homes are one or two cement rooms and an outside area where the cooking and washing is done. They can barely afford food or to send their children to school, let alone go overboard for Christmas like what we are used to.
Yet these are the happiest people I’ve ever seen in my life. The two girls who work at the hotel as day workers are always laughing and joking about something. The young man who noticed my tree decorations has a big smile andpleasant greeting for everyone he meets.
The typical Mayan has practically nothing in the way of worldly goods yet always seem to be in a good mood. I have everything, and I’m often in a bad mood about one thing or another. Is it any wonder I love living in Guatemala among the Mayan?
What a magical land this is. What intriguing people. What makes them so remarkable? Their humility, their spirituality, their joy in small things, their friendliness, their willingness to work hard for such little pay. I could go on and on. After two years in the highlands of Guatemala, my positive feelings about the land and the Mayan has not dimmed one bit. I am still in awe of this place and its people.
Our friends visiting us on Christmas Eve last year, bringing the traditional tamales and then asking to say a prayer of blessing with us. Both parents work so they can afford to send their children to school. They live in one room, with lights but no stove or refrigerator. I love this family. They are an example to me of true Christianity and represent the best of Guatemala.