On the plane ride home from Guatemala, Mateo and I sat next to an American business school professor who has consulted on growing businesses in Guatemala for the past 30 years. It didn’t take long for “Professor M” to figure out that I was what he called a “do-gooder”—that is, someone who believes that my small efforts to help a country I love might actually yield a result. Then when Professor M learned I lived in San Francisco! Well, that sealed the deal. M could categorize me as a person with my head in the clouds, you know the type.
Nevertheless, over 30 years, Professor M has, like me, developed a great love for Guatemala. His affection was clear as he spoke about the good work by many in the Guatemalan business community—their efforts to create jobs and income streams, their support of young people in the middle class to become educated and move up the career ladder. At the same time, the professor voiced deep frustration. According to him, the political system is so corrupt that it discourages talented, honest people from getting involved. Violence runs rampant. Drug traffickers have destroyed communities. “They’re recruiting kids as young as your boy,” M said, pointing to six-year-old Mateo. We both shook our heads.
By the time we touched down in Houston, the professor and I realized we held opinions more alike than different. Guatemala had captivated each of us. In our own ways, we do what we can.
That’s why I’ve posted the photo above, taken during my most recent trip. The picture shows a woman named “Dona G,” standing in front of a house built by Common Hope, an organization headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota, and based in Antigua, Guatemala. Contributions to Common Hope funded the house. Dona G earned it by putting in the required hours of sweat equity. Finally, Dona G and her family are living between walls that won’t collapse. During the torrential downpours of the rainy season, her new cement floor won’t turn to mud.
No one person can change the world. But in ways large and small, we can try to make our particular corner of it better.