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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shalom. Paz. Peace.

Buenas, Coffee Lovers. I am home from Guatemala, and I plan to break form a bit this week, giving you a long entry on Sunday instead of a Sip. I'd like to try and explain to you what happened to me while I was in Guatemala though I was unsuccessful in even beginning an explanation last year. It truly is my favorite place in the world.

I don't know if you've ever had a cup of Guatemalan coffee. If you haven't, might I heartily suggest that you do. A successfully brewed cup is infused with subtle, gentle aromatic notes and nuances. It is warm and gives off a delightful scent. It is clean and pure feeling. And, of course, it is  best taken black.

It is as if all of these subtle flavors and aromas have converged to create a deep, beautiful secret, that is not to be understood, but simply to be enjoyed. This makes perfect sense once one has gotten to know the people of Patzicia, Guatemala well.

It was my second trip there this year. It was an opportunity to simply be in the proximity of angelic, beautiful people. As I worked in their community, helping them build a monolithic church, I was shown again and again what true peace means.

I love words and usually believe in them implicitly, but the English language (as well as the Spanish language) lacks the necessary verbage to describe in full what I experienced there, in my own life as well as in theirs. However, I can try to describe what I've learned of peace lately. It is not something you meditate for or achieve by giving up anything that shoots a projectile or has a sharp point - though those things are always preferable options and often necessary. It is not something you wait for your government to grant you or your neighbors to provide for you - though that would help. It is not something you experience through financial security or the accumulation of goods - never.

No, peace is none of those things. Peace is being able to gaze into the maw of one's own daunting circumstances - of oppressive systems, poverty, corrupt governments, natural disasters - breathe, and live life with joy anyway. All of my families in Guatemala are a greater testament to the resilience of the human spirit than any I know.

The Hebrew word shalom means peace. But it goes beyond peace as we know it. It means wholeness, wellness, and balance between a thing, itself, others, and God. This is what the faith and peace of those in Guatemala is like. They are entirely centered with themselves, the god they believe in, their neighbors, their circumstances. They are one with the true beauty of living.

Going there, in fact, feels something like profound selfishness. While I am giving them the gift of my work and my time to help them build their huge church, I am truly giving myself the gift of their presence.

Which brings us back to coffee: the gift we all love to give ourselves morning and night. The people of Patzicia are so like the coffee grown in the fertile soil of their country. As the coffee of Guatemala itself is a profound secret crafted from the combined subtelty of velvet espresso flavors, citrus, and floral notes, so the people of Patzicia are a profound secret made possible by their love, their loss, their trials, tribulations, successes, and wholehearted embracing of all that breathing and living truly means. The laughter and worry lines around their eyes curl like steam from a cup, and you are reminded of dancing when they smile at you.

And what if we lived like that? What if in this doomed, dark country I live in, this place where suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults, we were to be bright, little secrets, not to be understood, just to be experienced, immersed in, consumed and given as gifts to the world? What if we truly lived עם שלום, con paz, with peace.

May your coffee be strong, your passions electric, and your laughter easy.
-michael

1 comment:

  1. Michael, Your words are indeed adequate and entirely beautiful. I felt peaceful just reading them. I am thankful for the lovely people of Guatemala; those I have never met because their joy shines in you. Thank you.

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