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Reaching Out by Elizabeth Oishi Comly

For me it means being completely surrounded; being enveloped within the surroundings; giving myself permission to dissolve into the other person so as to experience life with them: this I know first hand. I was part of a group of eleven who went to Esquipulas, Guatemala for seven days. Those seven days were filled with life altering experiences for me. I am being asked to share just one of those experiences with you, whom I do not know. However, the immersion experience taught me that none of us are strangers to one another, we just haven't been properly introduced.

On June 17, Matt and Gregory led our group to El Sendero de La Cruz. It was a hot day and already the swarms of insects made their presence known to me. I even had an encounter with a snake. I was impressed by myself for being able to hike without succumbing to a stroke. This was an upward climb on a road paved with uneven rocks. At a fork in the road to the right was a sign that indicated The Hermitage. It was only one kilometer away and I made up my mind to attempt it. After we had achieved our goal of finishing El Sendero, I mentioned to the group that I was going to explore the Hermitage. I didn't think any- one was interested because we were all tired from the hike. As I proceeded to again take to the road I was stopped by the energetic voices of John and Chuck - they wanted to come. So the three of us headed on our adventure to the Hermitage of La Cruz de Los Milagros. No road signs, no street addresses to tell us our way; we didn't have a map, GPS was non-existent, phones didn't work.

I was glad the guys were with me. We shared stories on our way to the Hermitage. For most of our journey we didn't en- counter anyone else. At a point when I felt that one kilometer had come and gone we encountered a worker from the fields and I asked about the Hermitage; he smiled and pointed, signaling with his arm to keep going in the direction where we were already heading. My heart kept saying “Trust” so we three kept walking in trust. In about ten minutes we saw the Hermitage. What a sight! The Hermitage was a small building - unassuming, yet we knew we were on holy ground. We were excited because we had achieved our goal - but more than that we had trusted a stranger. We got busy taking pictures and then we saw the stranger walking up the same path and he was joined by another stranger. They took turns telling us of the coffee plantations and the surrounding area. They too were reaching out to strangers. Then the first stranger invited us to his home with these words, "Les invito a mi ollita de frijoles." - "I invite you to share my little pot of beans." We graciously declined because we knew we had to return to our group and we thanked them. All the way back down that curvy road all we could think about was that a stranger had befriended us and had offered to share what we knew was all that he had. . . . I want to be a stranger like that to others whom I meet along life's path. 

Elizabeth Oishi Comly 
Volunteer Assistant
St. Joseph the Worker Church 
Berkeley, California
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