A different kind of knowledge

October 1, 2017 -- Living City

A different kind of knowledge
U.S. teens took on a global perspective at the Hombre Mundo workshops in Croatia and Hungary

By Maryam Hanani

We were in a small town square with teenagers from all over the world dancing together to music. Our faces showed a variety of colors and backgrounds, we were moving in different styles, and the music performed had lyrics in languages we didn’t know. Yet everyone felt included. Standing next to people we didn’t know, in a completely different country with countless differences between us, one thing we did know is that we were engulfed with happiness. To me, that moment summed up what our Hombre Mundo trip was all about.

From July 15–30, 17 U.S. teens of the Focolare travelled to Croatia and Hungary to take part in Hombre Mundo 2017. We knew that “Hombre Mundo” meant “Global Person” in Spanish, but during our time there, these words began to translate into something deeper within our minds and hearts. Generally, we were aiming to be people who would expand their knowledge of and exposure to life in other countries, to become more open-minded to other perspectives.

As soon as we arrived, we met over 260 other young people from all parts of the world: Croatians, Italians, Germans, Middle-Easterners, and many more welcomed us as if we were childhood friends.

Our first week took place in Mariapolis Faro, the Focolare community center in Krizevci, Croatia. Through workshops, presentations — even an international cultural celebration — we learned how to use our heads, hands and hearts to make compassionate decisions that can positively impact the world around us every day.

One morning, we discussed the topic of suffering. We listened to experiences of how teens are trying to face suffering with trust in God’s love. Two stories really struck me: one shared by a boy from the U.S. and one from Venezuela. Both experiences reflected on a period of physical and emotional suffering that their families experienced. After hearing both stories, I realized that although we live in different countries that have different environments, privileges and cultures, we are still essentially connected by the struggles (and even the joys) that we all must face from time to time. That was really eye-opening.

We faced our own challenge during the trip as well when the suitcases of seven of us from our group did not arrive until four days after we were there. At first this was a setback to what was meant to be a perfect week. Later, however, we realized that this problem was a call for us to come together, share in one another’s suffering, and help each other out.

Many people were willing to offer us a helping hand by lending clothes and even buying us new toothbrushes. People we had met only days before volunteered to help. While we have often had the privilege of giving to others, this experience of receiving was new and was a way to complete the cycle of unity.

During the second week of Hombre Mundo everyone was spread out in small groups, like a net across various countries, to participate in concrete service projects with the spirit we had learned in week one. Our group from the U.S. divided into three smaller groups and each joined a group of Hungarian teens — in the cities of Budapest, Kecskemet and Gálosfa — to learn more about Hungary and work on different service projects.

My group and another worked on a farm; others helped clean up an abandoned medical center for new community use. The physical work was often challenging, along with the language barrier. However, we still managed to do our work efficiently, and we had fun doing it! We were trying to serve others, but in a way, those three days were doing a service for us as individuals, as people who were growing and learning to define the meaning of Hombre Mundo.

The trip also helped us appreciate the diversity in our own group. We were from all over the U.S., and while we didn’t realize it, others made comments about how we were all so different in appearance, background and nationality. We always hear of the U.S. as being the melting pot of cultures, but I never really took notice of that until I had this international experience.

I feel extremely honored to know that I will be different coming home because now I know many people from different countries, and I have learned more about their cultures. It’s enriching. It’s reassuring to know these things for yourself, through your own life, rather than indirectly through another person’s. It’s a kind of knowledge that you don’t get from books or lessons; it’s a rare kind of knowledge that you acquire only through your own concrete experiences. This gift is not something everyone has had the privilege of receiving. We must be the ones to spread the message of unity among nations, especially in times like these when there is so much political and social strife between and within countries.

I’m sure that when I look back on this experience in years to come, I will primarily remember the positive energy that I was surrounded with for two weeks. We’ve followed the word of God and the will of God to live for unity. And because we’ve lived this global experience, I believe that all of us have an obligation to everyone back home. We can now truly say that unity between people of different origins is possible because we’ve seen it and lived it first-hand.


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