Who are the "Poor"?
Who are the "Poor"?
By Bryce Chretien '18

Courage is the inner strength one possesses to do something that the majority of others cannot. In my opinion, the materialistically poorest of the poor are the most courageous in our society. They live without basic necessities, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with no financial cushion for wants or desires they may have. When the thought of living without the basic necessities pops into one's mind, one automatically thinks "Wow, that's terrible, but I'm glad I'm not there", and then they remove it from their thoughts after a few minutes at most. Regardless of where one lives, how much money one has, or what car one drives, everyone has some sort of poverty and some sort of wealth. Our society revolves around money, those who have billions, those who have thousands, and those who don't have any. For many, financial poverty can be the hardest type of poverty to live with. Not many people would want to live without running water, little amounts of food, and no electricity. Nor would they enjoy having to perform hard labor from 4am to 7pm in scorching hot temperatures, no cable, no cell phone and no extra money for the small wants we all have. This is rather biased coming from a Canisius student, but the popularity of the school's Companions service immersion trips shows that Canisius men truly are "Men for Others." They are willing to go out and do something unfamiliar to them and help those who aren't as fortunate as they are.

Being put into impoverished situations, even if it is in our own community, is scary. Not everyone is willing to go out of his or her comfort zone and commit to doing something for the poor nor to live with them. It's funny how our Immersion program attracts so many kids who are enthusiastic about living in poor communities with no electronics. Whether in Los Angeles, Cincinnati, the Dominican Republic or Nicaragua, we are making some sort of difference. We may not be resolving poverty or ending world hunger, but the people in these situations seem to appreciate our efforts, regardless of how small those efforts are. The fact of the matter is that regardless of how great of a person you are, everyone has poverty. As for the Nicaraguan community of Boaco Viejo, they are not very wealthy financially, but they are wealthy spiritually and religiously. One of the main aspects I noticed was how grateful the people of this poverty-stricken community were, even though they didn't have anything to show materialistically. This was truly eye-opening; the fact that we often do not come close to having the same amount of gratitude towards God when we have so much more than the Nicaraguans. To most Americans, wealth is only categorized by materialistic value. One of the main focus points we talked about was the aspect of living simply. This was an attempt to remove us from our known "riches" and help us focus on aspects of our lives that involve non-materialistic wealth. By doing this, we created a community and brotherhood that was reliant on trading our riches and learning how to become stronger in parts of our lives where we were poor. Restricting all electronics on the trip helped us disconnect from our social lives and focus instead on reflecting. Considering that we had a total of 16 hours flying on a plane, there were many opportunities to meet and talk with our peers and get to know each other so we could form a brotherhood. This was the first step in forming a community of trust and friendship.

Our 2017 Compañeros trip to Nicaragua was truly amazing. There was some difficulty communicating with our host families and fellow workers, but that was our main challenge coming into the trip. This language barrier wasn't necessarily a bad thing. It allowed English speakers, like us, to become hermanos and compañeros (brothers and companions) and just talk about all the little things. Whether it was talking about sports, TV shows, movies, school, or anything else that came to our minds, these small conversations we had while we were working helped us form brotherhoods and friendships. Another aspect of our trip that was most influential on me and on our formation of becoming hermanos were the reflections at night after dinner. Before we left, we were told that what we put into it would be the same as what we got out of it. This was obviously taken very seriously and taken to heart by everyone. Our reflections lasted about an hour and a half each night and were very moving. The fact that eight strangers came together in a third world country after an eight-hour day of work and were asked to tell these strangers all about their hardships truly demonstrated that we already had formed a community. In addition, the fact that we were so willing to tell all of our deprivations to one another shows how much we trust each other.

As many great experiences we had just talking with one another, we had just as many experiences with the Nicaraguans through work and our many adventures. Playing soccer, hiking up a mountain for three hours, listening to music, going to Mass, swimming, or even just working allowed us all to practice our Spanish as well as bond with the Nicaraguans. For me, as a mediocre Spanish speaker, just being able to joke around with the two Nicaraguan foremen at the work site was a priceless moment. I think the best part about the Nicaraguan society as a whole is obviously not its material wealth, but the outstanding relationships you can form with the people there.

I think I speak for all of us when I say this trip will be the highlight of our Canisius High School careers. No, we didn't save the Nicaraguan people, nor did we resolve any of their problems, but we all caught a glimpse of hope and light at the end of the tunnel. As much as this trip was intended to help the people of Nicaragua, I think it helped us as a community just as much. It helped us become "Ruined For Life" and realize that we may have it rough in our eyes, but not as difficult as we may think. The trip has taught us to appreciate all of the things our families, teachers, and friends do for us because we don't know what tomorrow will bring. Our group, as a whole, is truly fortunate to be able to go to such a society suffering with poverty. We did what we could to help them and they helped us grow as a community and in understanding.