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.
I didn’t realize you live in a hotel, Karen. Who comes to stay there besides you?
The land of Nothing… I suppose if you have nothing, you also have nothing to lose, and maybe this takes care of middle class anxieties.
What a delightful post, Karen. Having spoken with church workers who have been overseas, I find what you have described is life as I had anticipated it. And while the Mayan people live in such different circumstances, I do not think of them as being “less well off” than we in North America.
Merry Christmas to you in the land of Nada. And, of course, Bear hugs come with the blessings.
Maybe simple is best–it probably is in the long run of life. But I’m kind of fond of good ol’ American excess now and then.
Tossing It Out
Hi Karen – wonderful post … living in a country with a lot of poverty does open one’s eyes and as you say they seem to be so happy – teaches us something … laughter is free. Have a wonderful peaceful and enjoyable Christmas … cheers HIlary
They have so little which is why they can appreciate so much. What a wonderful attitude.
Merry Christmas, Karen!
Their simplicity is enriching to all.
Saturday I helped a group who’d set up a place for people in need to get free clothes, household items, and toys. Some of the people were greedy and unhappy. But towards the end, when it was really picked over, a Hispanic woman and her two kids came in. They only took a little and the woman said they wouldn’t get much for Christmas, but those two kids were so full of joy. I managed to track down a toy for each of them before they left. So poor, and yet so full of joy and spirit.
Joy in the small things … if only we would be busy looking for joy, we might not be so unhappy.
What a beautiful little family. May God give them special blessings.
They have the joy of living in a beautiful land. Is that enough for happiness? Perhaps it is.
Sold! Man, that sounds lovely. Hmm….maybe we’ll be neighbors one day.