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3 Things I Learned in Chinandega

Written By: Gloria Farmer

Amigos for Christ 2021 Summer Intern

Team: Community Development

1. Life is better when you live it slowly.

 

In America, life is always moving fast. We’re always on the go, both physically and mentally: rushing to the next meeting, texting dozens of people at once, and trying to keep up with the latest trends. Our bodies and our brains are always occupied, and that adds up. Busyness turns to exhaustion, exhaustion turns to frustration, frustration turns to anxiety, and so-on and so-on.

 

But here in Chinandega, Nicaragua, life is slow. We don’t have constant access to the internet, so our phones are only used when they need to be. Afternoons are spent in rocking chairs on the porch with family and friends, and evenings are spent visiting vecinos who live nearby. Even when we are hard at work, we are simply occupied by that one task and not much more. Everything is taken one step at a time.

 

Our focus isn’t on the thousands of things that would typically flood our brains in the fast-paced world of the States. Our focus is on whatever and whoever is right in front of us. And by nature, that frees us to love whatever and whoever is right in front of us, whether that’s the people sitting in rocking chairs on our porch, the vecinos we’re spending the evening with, or even the difficult project we’re working on for our team. You learn to love it all when you just slow down.

 

Life is better when you live it slowly.

2. Strangers don’t have to stay strangers.

 

One of my favorite things about Chinandega is how quickly strangers turn into friends and friends turn into family. No matter where you are going, you are bound to meet someone new along the way. They’ll offer you a friendly conversation, directions to where you’re going, or an invitation into their home for a meal — and sometimes all of those things at once. People who you originally would have passed by without a second thought are suddenly the highlight of your day. And it’s not uncommon for those very people to eventually become your dearest friends.

 

There’s a level of intimacy that’s ingrained in the culture of Nicaragua, and it creates a world in which strangers simply don’t exist. In Nicaragua, strangers are just friends who you haven’t become friends with yet. They’re an opportunity to build a new relationship and learn more about somebody else’s life. And I’ve found that the more we embrace that perspective, the more joy we find in the community around us. So rather than looking the other way when we come across a new face, life is much better when we learn to lean in and embrace them as a friend.

 

Strangers don’t have to stay strangers.

3. Change is in the little things.

 

Here at Amigos, we’re always striving for change, for transformations in the lives that we serve. And it’s easy for us to turn to the big-picture moments that mark those changes: inaugurating a new water system in a community, paying off a microcredit loan, finishing a school year with perfect attendance. And all of those things are great achievements. But it would be wrong to look at those achievements as individual moments. Because in reality, every single big-picture moment that we’re able to celebrate is the result of small decisions made day-by-day, usually when nobody is watching, that add up to life transformations.

 

Water inaugurations can only happen after months digging trenches in smoltering heat. Paying off a microcredit loan can only happen after years of saving and budgeting as you manage your business. Perfect attendance can only be achieved after making the choice every single day to walk that long road to school. We celebrate the big moments, but the key is really in the little things.

 

And that opens up the door of hope for those of us who desire change because everybody can start with the little things. Change is intimidating. Life transformation sometimes sounds unattainable, especially for people who have never been told otherwise. But everybody has at least one small choice that they can make that eventually will add up to a big-picture moment. And that is something worth celebrating.

 

Change is in the little things.

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