I had an interaction the other day that has kind of bothered me ever since it happened. I had just flown back home after a long day of travel and began to strike up a conversation with a friend in the airport. I told him that I was just returning from running workshops in El Salvador, when a woman who had overheard our conversation chimed in, condescendingly saying, “why would you ever go there” – her noticeably sarcastic undertone very much evident.
Though she definitely could’ve put it a lot nicer, I really can’t fault her for her judgement. I mean, El Salvador has quite the reputation for its danger, both in gang and drug related crime. The once-dubbed “murder capital of the world”, with something around 108.54 out of every 100,000 people becoming victims of homicide. This meaning that a little more than one out of every 1000 persons are murdered. On top of that, I found that just two months ago El Salvador went a full day without a murder for the first time in two years.
So considering all that, I guess this woman had a point. But in a way, I still pitied her. I went to El Salvador without any expectations. I was welcomed by a family that took me in as one of their own – giving me food when I hungered, and rest when I grew tired. I was taken in by a community of hard-working individuals, who during the week did anything they could to provide for their families, but by weekend, sought the soccer pitch as refuge. I was showered with love in a place that had been so misunderstood for so many years before.
A lot of these experiences would’ve never happened if my outlook on life was a little less like my own and a little more like that woman in the airport. If your first instinct when you meet someone is to not trust them, you’ll sadly miss out on a lot of opportunities to learn and really grow. It’s important to keep an open mind, and an open heart, in all things you do.