Belize It or Not

Today began my ASB Team’s retreat and we spent the day learning about Fair Trade and then doing some activities to broaden our perspectives and allow us to gain greater insight into our personalities and the makeup of our group. I’ll get to all of those points next week–for now, I need to discuss why Belize is important to me.

Believe it or not, it means more than even I had thought it would.

The last time I wrote I shared snippets of my ASB application and I’d like to do the same now:

The trip to Belize is my first choice for three reasons: First, the environment has always been important to me. There’s a principle in Judaism known as “tikkun olam,” or “repairing the world.” It comes from the idea that everything is sacred and it’s our duty on this planet to protect it. Preserving the environment through recycling, green energy, and organic farming are all acts of tikkun olam. Growing up, I would spend every day walking around my backyard or lying under nearby trees. In Israel, some of the most memorable field trips were those in which I saw the country’s natural beauty. At Guilford Tech, there was a small pond nestled between some trees where I would sit on a large boulder and bask in the sunlight. I care deeply for our environment and any trip that would help me to do something addressing environmental issues would be quite fulfilling for me. And, let’s face it, it’s about chocolate–and we all love chocolate.

Next, I am also pursuing a minor in political science, so being able to learn about Fair Trade would be an incredible addition to my education. It is something I see frequently on chocolate bars and teas and coffees, but it’s not something I fully understand. Not only do I love learning, I also love learning things that will enhance my experiences in school–and I feel this trip could help me do that.

Finally, I read on the trip description page that past trips have visited Mayan ruins. As I child, I was fascinated by ancient ruins–and to be able to see Mayan ruins would simply be outstanding. Even to this day, I am brought to the edge of my seat when I watch documentaries about ancient cultures, the Mayans especially, and to learn about their history and see their ruins–I can’t put into words how amazing this would be for me. And to add to that seeing the coastal reefs and learning about the natural resources in Belize–it’s all so much, and I really think I would love every moment of it.

Except, number one, it isn’t all about chocolate. (I’ll elaborate later.)

And, number two, Fair Trade is a lot more than just trading fairly. (You guessed it–I’ll elaborate later.)

Finally, we won’t actually be seeing the Mayan ruins this year, but since the world didn’t end, I think they’ve lost all global credibility anyways. So, seriously, what’s left to see?

(Honestly, I’d still love to go, but the differences we’ll be making with the work we’re doing will leave such a greater impact anyways that I’m not lamenting the loss at all.)

If I tried to explain more deeply any of these ideas, I’d spill over into a number of extra posts–so that’s my plan, to give both chocolate and Fair Trade their due diligence, but for now I’d like to speak a little bit about tikkun olam–but just a little bit.

It all goes back to a story I’ve told a thousand times: When God created the world, he placed a fraction of his infiniteness in a vessel at the center of the world, but it shattered, and the shards of this infinite potential coalesced into the world as we know it, every surface imbued forever with a spark of divinity. So it is our job as God’s creations to uplift these sparks and ignite a wildfire inside all of us–bringing us all closer to God and reuniting what has since forever been broken.

We do this by leading lives full of righteousness and justice. By helping the poor, the needy, taking only that which we need and no more, being open, understanding. Building community.

I also heard a fantastic quote that seems appropriate here: “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you. They are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” – Wade Davis

On that note, it’s important to know before I leave the principles I see there, the culture I’ll be immersed in, is as legitimate as the culture I’ve grown up in. This is not an opportunity to fix them–but to help them build, just as we sometimes need help to build ourselves as well.

Unfortunately, I can’t elaborate any further now, because in the morning I’m heading out on the second half of our retreat–a trip with Habitat for Humanity. It’ll be a busy, tiring day, but I can’t think of anything I’d rather do. So consider these words a teaser for something more to come–because, trust me, more will come.

This is still only the beginning.

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