Bezaleel – Making Connections

Bezaleel means “under the shadow of God” and is the name of a school in Guatemala where Galen Lehman did volunteer work in July, 2008. #4 in a series of posts on what he learned there.

People have told me I’m hard-working, responsible, task-oriented. Compliments? Maybe not!

Being “task-oriented” means I measure my worth by how much I’ve accomplished. A day with a lot of things crossed off my list is a good day!

In Guatemala, I learned to measure the quality of my days by how I had strengthened my relationships with others.

Maybe I had no choice! Work in the mountains of Guatemala moves at a different pace than it does stateside. Supplies were seldom adequate. The project leader usually showed up five minutes after the announced start time. Laughter over practical jokes like smearing paint on each other often distracted us. We arm-wrestled for bragging rights, and other things. (I lost the right to carry our room key in an arm-wrestling match. But, at least I didn’t lose my favorite pair of pants, like my friend, Lydell, did.)

After a few days of this, I started to figure out that I needed to focus on the relationships and let the work get done at its own pace. We went to Guatemala to work. But, the real value of the experience was the friendships we made along the way. The best parts of my trip were not “getting things done.” The best parts were things we did together.

Like the afternoon when a few of us slipped away from the group for a long, lazy coffee. Or, teaching our K’ekchi’ hosts to sing “When the Lion Sleeps tonight” in English, a language they didn’t know. Or, when three us worked through a tropical rain storm vainly trying to put a nice brushed finish on concrete we had just poured. In the end, we gave up on the brushed finish and settled for something we jokingly called the “Guatemala Rain Finish.”

Since I’ve been back at my “real” work, I’ve tried to hang onto the idea that it’s OK to settle for second-best if you can have some fun along the way. It hasn’t been easy.

This world is a little more demanding than that world was. And, I’m learning that all my co-workers already know what’s wrong with task-oriented people like me. Apparently, I’m locally famous for charging off to the next task while people are still talking to me and for not hearing them say “Good Morning!” because I’m too deep in thought.

But, I’m hoping I can stick with it. I want to do the best work possible. But, I also want to remember that the people are know are more important than the work I do.

Week: Read about how to make a difference.

Click here for more information on Bezaleel.

Learn more about Mennonite Central Committee, a non-profit relief organization.

Learn about Guatemala.

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