Do you feel inspired? I guess it doesn’t look like much. Just two people smiling in front of a camera. Yet the possibilities are endless. Are they just friends? Strangers? Acquaintances? There are a lot of thing’s this picture is saying, and the most obvious fact may be that the girl in the photo is me.

This photo was taken on my last day in Guatemala. The school we had been working on repairing had organized a farewell celebration to thank us for our help. Each grade has prepared a little skit, dance, or song to perform and the teacher’s presented each of us with a little thank you souvenir. It was after the festivities that I asked for a photo with this man. He is the president of the school, the man who seeked and applied for our international help, he organized his community to accommodate us, and even got his wife to cook us three meals a day.  His name was Maximilian, but I called him Max.

He may not look like much, but Max only had one hand. The disability never stopped him. He working just as hard as all of us, moving cinder blocks or carrying ladder’s. He rode a motorcycle around town, and even though he was discriminated against, he never let his disability stop him.

Maximillian and his Family

The one memory I will never forget: We had just gotten back to the school from a day’s excursion to Lake Atitlan, and Max had a really important meeting that day about receiving permits to get running water at the school. The school has no flushing toilets, or running water to wash your hands. I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation, but when we asked Max how it went, he began jumping up and down and cheering in joy. His overwhelming joy washed over all of us forcing us to laugh and cheer with him. We later learned that he had waited thirty-three years for those permits. Thirty-three years to get water, a luxury I take advantage of.

He was the one man that I met that I will always regret not being able to talk to. I thought the language barrier was going to win, but I was determined to let him know that he has made an impact on me. So I asked a few friend’s how to say ‘You are an inspiration’ in Spanish, and right before the above photo was taken, I told him. It was a moment I will cherish forever. As a tear came to both of our eyes, we posed for a picture. A picture really does equal 1,000 words.

Later that night during our small group reflections, Max showed up to talk to our team leaders in private thanking them with a little gift. Then, he called for me and one other team member. No one else. He didn’t say much to me, just took my hands and looking in my eyes, he said ‘Gracias’. Just a simple thank you, but it was enough to bring up every emotional string in my body. He gave me a little clay pot on behalf of his wife, to remember them and make sure I go back next year. It reminded me of Sari in Cambodia, and the lesson learned, that even when they have nothing, they will give you everything.

Apologies for the poor quality of the photos.

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