What I Learned in Chiapas

Peter Beardsley is a student at Jesuit High School of Sacramento, California school who participated in a week-long immersion with his classmates in Chiapas.  He shares about his experience of playing soccer with boys from a rural mountain village….

Clouds were gathering as we walked up the mountain. Unused to the altitude, we panted for breath, but the children around us had no problems laughing and running around. Eventually we began to play soccer. It was very different from how kids in the states might have played.

There was no quarreling over the rules, no crying when someone was knocked down, just cheers when a play was made and  sense of intense focus on the task at hand. We played for what seemed like hours. Then it began to rain. Almost immediately we were soaked through. Not even the waterproof gear we were traveling with could stand up to the tropical downpour. The kids were soaked as well, looking as though they had spent the day swimming rather than playing soccer. But even though we were soaked to the bone, we continued to play.

We were absorbed by the game, both us and the kids. We ran and laughed and yelled together as the rain continued to pour down. I experienced many moments like this in Chiapas. Moments where the barriers of language and culture disappeared and we were able to interact with the people we met on a purer, deeper level. It was moments like these that taught me the most during the immersion. Service isn’t just about helping people, trying to make their lives better from the outside. It’s about really connecting with people and coming to a personal understanding of them.