I understand that cultures are different and what is right in one culture may be grounds for execution in another. But then there are also things we can learn from other places. We can learn from the US, for instance, that hard work can be a really good thing and that diversity pretty much always trumps homogeneity. There are lots of bad things we can also learn but those are less fun to write about because I'll end up depressed.
Anyway, I think there are a few things we American's could learn from the Guatemalans
Grief takes awhile - The year after someone dies they often have what's called a Cabo del Año. I'm unsure of the religious significance of it - there may be some Catholic prayers to get the dead out of purgatory, etc...but protestants have the Cabo as well. We attended just the beginning of one this past Friday. A friend of ours, a year ago, was in a car accident where her father and 14 month old baby boy were killed and her mom crippled. We went to their house with a trio of Guatemalan friends (the kiddos were at home) and sat in their house trying not to say anything stupid or be culturally insensitive.
The mother came out. She was dressed as pretty as she could afford and using a walker. Patti, our dear friend, went up to her to hug her and the mother just wept. Wept so loudly she was shaking. After a time she turned around and her brother was there and a half dozen other family members just wept with her. They wept for a long time, wailing and holding one another. And we did to, in a quiet and respectful way, share a little of their grief. And that's what they do pretty well here: share grief. It's not some cancer we bear alone. It's people hurting and the Lord made us to hurt in community. In the US even when a child or spouse dies we sort of expect them to be really sad for a few months then get back to normal. We'd never say that but we express it by our unwillingness to share long-term in their grief. And I realize that different people grieve in different ways but we sure could give folks a little more freedom in how they do it.
People Trump Time - I know you folks who have your Day Runner (or Palm or whatever) planned out to the millisecond will disagree, but forming and deepening human relationships is more important than getting things done on time. Does it mean we don't get things done? No. It may mean that we're up late some nights finishing things or we have to put another thing aside for later. But people are more important. Things aren't eternal; people are. And the Guatemalans are a little better at that principal than Americans. They may not be as productive, but what is productivity anyway? What is so important about doing? I realize there is, as in many things, a balance, but I have certainly had to learn that when I just have to get it done and someone pops over for a visit, I can probably be OK talking for awhile. Sometimes I can't, but that's rarely honestly the case.
I'm still learning. I'll be doing that forever so I'm happy to do so. But some lessons are harder than others. I hope I can learn them while doing just a little damage.