We are certain of something we currently cannot see.
As we pick up little pieces of trash from the beach with a small group of kids, the inevitable question surfaces, "Are we too late?" When Christina shared the thought with me yesterday, I could instantly relate. I was highly overwhelmed by the mounds of plastic on this particular beach last week during club. One of the other leaders, Mari, was working close to me collecting trash. I blurted out, "What we are doing is nothing." -It was a weak and pretty lame complaint. But somehow, I just needed to hear myself be honest with how I felt in the moment. Half a second later, I corrected course, "This trash will all be back in a couple of days, BUT, when we get a second and third and 16th group going, THAT is when things are going to start to turn around! Every family in town is going to have a child involved in this project! Then we'll have to start a 'Grandparents for a better San Juan' and a 'Juans for a better San Juan' club, and a 'Jorges for a better San Juan'!"
You see, the vision is so much more significant than what is currently happening. It's like the first week or two of a diet. The results aren't there, but the needed shift in mindset has occurred. Sure, right now, in this town and culture, it's normal to litter. But there is a particular group of very young kids that have started the revolution, and it's just the beginning.
The vision: It's a complete transformation of this landscape. It's an investment into an inheritance for our children more valuable than gold, and it's all started with a close circle of friends supporting us in saying, "Go guys, this is awesome!" (That's all of you guys, the one's still reading this!)
We are on a trajectory towards something so beautiful and much more significant than any one of us can see.
What is hitting me hard is how completely detached we were from this problem in our comfortable Canadian home and community before our arrival here.
And now we're in it.
As a writer that's traveled to Guatemala, I consider myself an ambassador. One with a new responsibility to lift the veil off of the things to which I was ignorant before my travels. There is garbage everywhere here. While extremely beautiful, there are streets and lots that could easily be mistaken for landfills. Action is needed more than ever from those that do not see this. Whether you live in Canada, America, or Guatemala, the world we live in is the inheritance of those to come.
The key to realizing the vision: First, for me, it's communicating the urgency of the problem to outsiders. Second, letting you all know how powerful you are. Seemingly daily insignificant money choices and miscalculations have POWER! The kind of coffee you drink, the loose change in your cupholder, the extra portion of food that landed up in the garbage bin or the back of the fridge until it went bad. Changing a habit that currently wastes a few dollars or even quarters a day can create a positive change in another's life forever. It just takes being intentional, we can do this.
In conclusion: if you are part of this community, you're about to see something big go down. Keep checking in, share this with someone you know, love a neighbor you've never met, be calculated, don't overbuy sweet potatoes or let the leftovers go bad in your fridge this week.
Owen Dargatz is a father first, husband second, writer third. He loves traveling with his family, seeing new places, meeting new people, and writing about it all. He is currently living in San Juan La Laguna in Guatemala, cleaning up garbage and working on inspiring others, including his five kids, to do the same.