The Best of Everything

by Shannon McCullough

I have come to learn that what surrounds you or what you have chosen to surround yourself with, for whatever reason, is the best. How one processes the thought of “the best” will have many different subjective personal meanings. You would expect me, as a food writer, to jump into the cliché of the best food of 2013 this month; I shall not. I write of what inspires me, certainly, as a professional caterer, I am inspired by food, but here in Guatemala there is a great deal of inspiration at every turn. It is the magic that draws people here in droves.

2013, a full year living in Guatemala — in my first month, as I pitched a project idea, I remember someone saying to me, “No one will know your name for at least two years.” I was taken aback to be sure, but smart enough to know better. I was in search of the best Guatemala has to offer, and I have since learned to stop searching, as the best surrounds all of us in every moment.

Guatemala has made me aware of what really matters. Having grown up in the U.S., we use the words “the best” with a different meaning. People camping out in front of the Mac Store for two days in the cold to purchase the latest iPhone is a great example. People want the best and the newest of everything, even when what they have will last them for years. Corporations spend billions of dollars to keep people enthralled in a state of “having the best,” which could only be referred to as “ridiculous.”

I am much happier here in Guatemala, not living in the constant state of “want.” Driving a new Lexus or Mercedes-Benz here is not the best as it would be perceived in other countries. Driving around in an old car in Guatemala has no social implications.

Today I value something much better than a new Mercedes automobile, it is friendship. Ironically, one of my friends is named Mercedes. She makes me smile, and I, too, her. It is a friendship that will carry me many more miles than a car with monthly payments that could feed a family in Guatemala for months.

I have surrounded myself with friends and family without agendas, nor am I in it for personal gain. I have learned not to give up on people who cannot express their fondness of others, as I know it is their heart. I see things in people which others may not. I see behavior in some of which I can only learn something. I read a quote many years ago that said, “My friends are few, but altogether sufficient.” It is here in Guatemala I have learned these words to be true.

I have realized not to place value in things but rather in true friendships. I have a special friend, and I often make my way to her office. She has a heart so full of love for people, animals and life that I could not imagine not having her in my life. She is the best, and has taught me to search for the truth in my heart. Living here in Guatemala has brought me joy in ways that I never could have imagined.

I have no need for the best new iPad, the best new car or best of anything. I see best in everything that surrounds me. Achaan Chaa, the Thai meditation master, once said, “Do you see this glass? I love this glass. It holds the water admirably. When I tap it, it has a lovely ring. When the sun shines on it, it reflects the light beautifully. But when the wind blows and the glass falls off the shelf and breaks or if my elbow hits it and it falls to the ground I say, of course. But when I know that the glass is already broken every minute with it is precious.”

Friendship, too, is precious and fragile. To the friends I have made here in Guatemala, I value your friendships. I am sure to meet more friends in the coming New Year and I am certain that even more of the best is yet to come.

Shannon McCullough is a writer living in La Antigua Guatemala. He is currently writing a book on cooking and entertaining in Guatemala.


  • Dorothy Kethler

    Dear Shannon,

    I rarely write comments, but your beautiful essay has expressed my feelings about life in Guatemala so well. I totally agree with all you’ve said. This is a place where people see beyond you to your heart and that is what they respond to. Well done! And thanks. If you ever come to Pana, let’s have coffee. Cheers, Dorothy

  • What a loving article from a very loving person! Gracias Shannon!
    I also enjoy the simple living lifestyle & the wonderful Guatemalan people.

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