The Beauty in Suffering

The Beauty in Suffering

We rarely choose the time and place when beauty strikes us. Often it is not of our own doing and in the moment, we are at a loss for words. The moment speaks to us, but in a foreign language – something transcendental and yet only perceivable by humans. I'm talking about a sunset that paints the sky in violent hues, a baby's innocent smile, or perhaps the embrace of a dear friend after a prolonged absence.

As I look back now on nearly two years here in the field, and I'm not proud of what I'm about to say, I think how I once thought Guatemalans in poverty somehow didn't experience the kind of beauty I'm talking about. It's a testimony to human ignorance and my very powerful ego that I could have thought such a thing, that somehow I knew how life plays itself out across all our emotional dimensions. It's one thing I am very happy to have learned in Guatemala. I have found beauty here and I have SHARED beauty, and not in larger or smaller amounts than my friends here. It's just beauty, experienced as the human soul experiences it.  It just is. And as my initial two year commitment winds down it seems like beauty is everywhere. I see it in the weathered and leather-like face of an old woman carrying a small child on her back. I see it in the simple dirt path inviting me to a new project and a new adventure.

The author in Guatemala.

The author in Guatemala.

I am coming to find that the nature of our work is to expose the amaranthine beauty lying underneath the surface, that is, of the people and projects we come into contact with.

Between our egos, a language/culture barrier, and all the preconceptions we carry around it's a miracle that anything gets revealed at all. But since we are, in a way, constantly striving towards a vision of ourselves that is archetypal, we manage to slowly illuminate these pieces of beauty, until a vision of the whole is revealed. We talk, we consult, we communicate with the other in hope and faith that we are, in fact, of some use to someone. 

To stay positive we work hard to remember the person, the soul, the individual with whom we work. Which is why we say, at FTF, that the answers lie in the individual and there isn't a one size fits all solution. The beauty lies in the individual and my responsibility to the other.  Are you picking up what I'm putting down?

I'm saying I have a responsibility not only to myself, but to you, and the lady down the road. And here's the paradox. Each of us is responsible to the other and in that way, as a collective, as human beings, we are all on the same path. Or perhaps said differently: When we all see ourselves as individuals responsible to one another we share a path that leads us all toward health and beauty and fullness. But to see the world this way is difficult.  We have to suffer other people's pain in order to reveal beauty. In the case of FTF, we study for hours, walk everywhere, get sick, get laughed at, and feel loneliness. We spend all this time, so much time, trying to relate. And all to reveal what? A small recycling project?

No. Wrong.

We reveal three young women who had dreams of something beautiful, three people who came together and are suffering in order to build what was once only a nascent idea. The Latin passio, from which comes the English word passion, means to suffer. To try anything of merit is to enter a relationship of suffering. And that's what we want each of our projects to include as a goal. We want our projects to be more than productive, we want them to contain a universal beauty born out of the suffering - the passion- local change-makers have for their work. The road our impresarios walk to make their projects a reality isn't just about the outcomes, but also about the walk itself. This is how the healthiest among us view our jobs, our marriages, our projects and our relationships. It's radical, but not really. 

Why not start walking the path with FTF? Come meet our Impresarios. Come experience the beautiful suffering found in serving the poor.

Andrew Schwark