Grasshoppers and the Meaning of Life, One AMA's Experience Print

Rebecca Petty, AMAThe grasshoppers are the first thing I tell my friends and family about Chaparral.  About how when Emily and I walk through our backyard to get to the compost or the sheds where all the games and manualidades are stored, dozens of them jump without any predetermined idea about where they are going to land.  They move based on an intuitive sense of danger and react to the change by often changing more than they planned to.

Rebecca Petty, AMAMy favorite experience with these little guys involved my car, Emily, and a bookstore.· We laughed when one of these tiny creatures got itself caught in Emily’s skirt, and we saw it squirming around between her leg and her clothes, fighting to be let out, without her realizing it was even there.· We laughed even harder when it finally escaped and landed in the children’s book section of Hastings in Las Cruces, 40+ miles away from its home. We joked about how when the grasshopper woke up that morning, it was probably not thinking about making such a long trip, then we both got very quiet and looked at each other, realizing from experience how terrified the little guy must actually be, reflecting on how difficult it is to pack up and leave your home and everything familiar, and how small one can feel venturing out alone in such a big world, or at the very least, in such a big section of a bookstore.

2010-2011 AMA volunteersI was reminded of this tiny little explorer recently, when the Sisters, Emily and I made our way to a remote part of El Paso, TX to join in celebrating Mass at the border with residents of Juarez, México, separated by the border fence.  It was my first experience with physically being at the border, and seeing the very real separation between these two countries.  After the Mass, we approached the fence to speak with some of the individuals standing on the opposite side.  We ended up talking mostly with a group of children, each one telling us his or her name, age and proudly talking about a favorite subject in school.  Standing there, as close to Mexico as I could get without needing my passport, I thought about that grasshopper, and about all of the immigrants who, maybe not planning on it, made a similar terrifying trek from their homes, from their families and away from all that was familiar, to look for a new life, for new opportunities on our side of the fence.  Looking into the faces of these children, obscured by the very real boundary between us, I saw the faces of the kids I see every day here in Chaparral.  I understood how any one of the children I have come to love is only on this side of the fence as the result of a very scary choice their parents or grandparents made to get here.

A Chaparral friendThis realization made me feel even smaller in a world that is already too big for me to comprehend.  It made me reflect on why I decided to become an AMA.  Yes, of course, I left with the intention to change the world, but I am conscious of the fact that I will never be able to alter it in the way I want to (…yet).  Instead, I signed on in a desperate attempt to hold onto something familiar.  The Sisters in Worcester have been a part of my life throughout my college career, and my choice to spend another year with members of their religious family was no mistake; it allowed me to maintain the lifeline I so desperately needed to the familiarity of my old life.  Perfect, I assumed I would not have to change at all.

Kids hanging out at the Sisters compound in ChaparralAfter being here for 3 months, working with the children in the middle school, the students at the high school, organizing Friday night activities, and getting to know and love the families that make up this community, I laugh at that thought  which originated from my desperate attempts to avoid becoming a ‘real person’ in the ‘real world’.  Being here in Chaparral has already changed me.  I am experiencing a side of the United States that I had only read about in newspapers or the Internet.  I am living it with the people here.  I have never appreciated the beauty of a sunset as much as I have here.  It has been a wonderful whirlwind of unbelievable food, amazing people, and hard work.  Coming here has made me aware that change, whether in the form of finding yourself in a store full of books you are too small to read, or bringing yourself and your family to a new place in search of a better life, is a good thing.  Maybe that is the lesson I have learned from watching the grasshoppers, knowing that making the leap into the unknown is half the battle, that after you land, you can only hope that God will be there to guide you to the exit of that bookstore, across that fence that offers a new life and new challenges, and bring you closer to your place in this world.

by Rebecca Petty, AMA

(editor's note: The Religious Sisters of the Assumption and the Assumptionists cooperate in overseeing a volunteer program with domestic and international sites. More info can be found about AMA, Associate Missionaries of the Assumption, on this website or at Rebecca, aka Becca, graduated from Assumption College in Worcester in May 2010. She is currently spending a year in Chaparral, New Mexico, working with the Religious of the Assumption in their ministry to Mexican immigrants along the border.)

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 November 2010 10:56