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One day Rodolfo stopped me in the woods and asked me in his very broken English, “Why do you not take breaks?” To which I responded with confusion, “Huh?” He said that he was surprised to see a little girl like me lifting rocks for 4 hours without a break. I said to him that it would be a waste if I didn’t work because that is why I was brought to Muchucuxcah. He said to me again in his broke English, “No, you were not brought here to move rocks. You came to Muchucuxcah so that we can learn to smile like you!” I immediately turned bright red and thanked him very much.

On Saturday night at our last fiesta with the community, Rodolfo came over to me again to explain our conversation in the woods. He said it is not so often you meet someone with a genuine smile who really loves to interact with other human beings. He asked me what my name meant and I said to him that my name is Sasona Simcha which means happiness and joy. He said, “I knew it!” He told me that human interaction is so powerful and that for him meeting our group has taught him so much about himself and about the way he interacts with others. He said he loves to meet people and learn something about them and I really took that to heart. I will always remember Rodolfo as the man who taught me to believe in myself and who taught me that I have the power to impact those around me through smiling.

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Four stories, four sets of relationships, four life lessons. But this week in a tiny village in the Yucatan peninsula which I will likely never see again, showed me so much more. By sharing this amazing experience with 18 amazing new friends from the YU community, I learned that by working together, we can truly change the world and make our little neck of the woods more special, more enjoyable and more meaningful.

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