I am so eternally grateful for my support system. The friends and family I have around the world that envelop me in love, prayers, and laughter amaze me and keep me going on less-than-good days. But today, I want to send a special shout out to one of my supporters who deserves some gratitude and attention: Christel Guntermann. 

Christel and I met in a class at ASU in 2010 and were pretty wary of each other, each thinking the other was a little strange. We worked on a project together, I lent her a textbook the following semester and assumed I would never see her again. So imagine my surprise when I see a familiar face on my first day of work at Gammage Auditorium last August. There I was: alone and afraid and quite convinced I would never make friends at this new job. And there she was: warm and welcoming and friendly. For some reason, we decided to ignore our past assumptions about each other and try again. As it turns out, we are both a little strange, but in a way that is wholly compatible.

Christel and I quickly became close friends (so close that people often mistake us for a couple, but that’s another story). We found that we share an intense love for Simon & Garfunkel and hummus, an intense passion for justice issues, and an intense desire to see the world. My dear friend was able to see some of the world this summer, when she traveled Tanzania doing public health outreach work for two months. She returned home to Arizona 36 hours before I was set to leave for my YAGM year. Although it wasn’t the best timing, I am unspeakably grateful that we got to spend some time together before I left. I had sat with her as she packed for Tanzania, so she sat with me as I packed for South Africa (as it turns out, we’re also both last-minute packers). 

In my time so far in the YAGM program, Christel has been my rock. I tell her my joys, my sorrows, and my jokes. This includes a few nights ago, when I sent Christel a facebook message after a less-than-great day, telling her my frustrations. She responded with words of encouragement and empathy. She also sent a beautiful excerpt about traditional Mayan greetings and our oneness as diverse people. Reading her words helped me remember that I have love and support from all over the world. It helped me remember that I am not alone, and that there are always people I can turn to. She also reminded me that hard days help you grow and become stronger, and that hard days don’t last forever. Christel ended her message, “Have a day filled with beauty and kindness.” I think that is pretty perfect, because that is exactly how I would describe her. 


Thank you to all of my supporters, family, and friends. You each deserve some recognition and hugs. For now, know that you are appreciated beyond measure. I am so blessed to have a life full of people who love and support me; people like Christel.