A Glimmer of Hope, a Chance of Life
It wasn’t the most beautiful flower, hell, it may have even been a weed. Rooted in volcanic ash and surrounded by a barren landscape, it was the only colorful ‘thing’. More than being just a ‘thing’, it was a living object, and somehow it managed to thrive. In an area where nothing else appeared to have lived for hundreds of years, this lone weed (let’s be honest), had found a way to make it work – a way to live.
Small? Yes. Trivial? Maybe. Insignificant? Probably. To the common eye, that is what this piece of greenery suggests. Rooted much deeper in the black, volcanic rock though, and there is something greater that is evident on the surface. What are the chances that this plant would survive on the slopes of an active volcano? One might conjecture the odds are one in a million. But, that one chance? It happened, and as a result you have a glimmer of hope and a chance of life.
Volcano Pacaya is one of the few active volcanoes in Central America. While my previous stints in Guatemala afforded me the opportunity to hike a few inactive volcanoes, Pacaya wasn’t one of them. Not wanting to spend the last day in country with a bitter taste in my mouth, it was best to get out and explore the beauty of the country in all of its simplicity.
With a tour guide leading the way, the trek began, and the thrill of hiking an active volcano had me excited. Working our way up the trail, the landscape slowly evolved from a dense, wooded area to more desolate territory, and eventually only the black volcanic ash and rock crushed beneath the shoes. Due to the volcanic activity, the path is ever changing, with no consistent path or route. Just like you are often called to do in your own life, you must create a new road and leave a trail for others to follow.
When the group reached the top, one could look out and take notice of the aldeas (towns) far off in the distance, as well as the other volcanoes. It was a simple reminder that no matter where you stand today, within your reach is something more fulfilling so long as you aren’t afraid to make the climb and seek it out.
A Renewed Hope, a Spirit Alive
I stood at the top of the volcano, staring in all directions. Guatemala has never let me down with one of these stunning views, and on this particular day it wasn’t any different. And, as always, it left me heading back down the mountain, grateful for having had the opportunity to take part in such an experience.
It was a pleasant ending to a roller coaster of a trip. The story was coming to an end, but it wouldn’t let me go without being reminded of what is truly important in life. So, what did I learn that morning?
I learned that in a place where you can be robbed of your things, there are people like Ricardo – people who have so little, yet are so fulfilled and bursting with life and enthusiasm. There are no things, items, or amount of money that provide a life of hope and happiness.
I learned that if you want something bad enough, you can achieve it, and you can make it happen in the seemingly worst of conditions. Do not settle for the obvious and take the risks when needed.
I learned that in life you are going to have to make decisions – some more difficult than others, and some will be life changing. Regardless of what the choices and options are, be damn thankful you have the opportunity to even have options. Because there are millions of people who do not have that luxury. There are no bad options, only options which you have the ability to make better.
I learned that where you stand today doesn’t define you as a person. What defines you is the path you took to get where you are, and the road you will take to get where you want to be. Just as the path to the peak of the volcano has shifted, so too will your path. There is still hope, and you can still thrive, provided you walk the road with integrity and authenticity.
I learned that you can never give enough. Be it your financial resources, your knowledge, or your skills, it’s important to share. The guide for the hike earned a wage of less than $6 USD for a four hour trip up and back – only to make a second trip as soon as he hit the base of the mountain. Tipping him half of that amount made his day, but the truth is, it wasn’t enough.
I learned that there are times in life when you feel alone, surrounded by nothing (just like the weed), and thirsty for more out of this life. In these times, you need only realize that you are incredibly blessed, and there are plenty of people who are there to support and help you – trust them and rely on them.
I learned that regardless of what you might think is best for you, ultimately affects all of those around you. When you become enamored with how your own decisions will affect you, don’t fail to forget there are others in your life who it might affect more than you realize.
Finally, I learned that in the darkest of places, where opportunity seems void, even you can stand out. Even you can thrive. Even you can provide a glimmer of hope and a chance of life. No one said the weed had to be pretty, just that it had to be alive and thriving in a place that no one would have believed.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” -Maya Angelou