BEING BILLIKENS: PETEY CAUTILLI THIS SUMMER, PETEY CAUTILLI, BILLIKEN ATHLETICS' FACILITIES AND EVENTS MANAGER, visited belize for an immersion trip. he wrote about his experience in this edition of 'being billikens'

After a weeklong immersion trip to Belize this is the most important thing I learned: Our perspective of our circumstances determines our happiness.

The journey to Belize happened exactly the way it was supposed to. On Sunday, July 23, I was scheduled to fly at 8 a.m. from Saint Louis to Dallas, where I would meet up with the other 12 members of the group before catching a flight to Belize City. To make a long story short, I arrived in Dallas 17 hours later at 3 o’clock in the morning after my original flight got cancelled and the last flight from Saint Louis to Dallas made a pit stop on the Oklahoma City runway as we waited for a storm to pass. I made friends with a couple sitting next to me who knew the best place to sleep when stranded overnight. So after a five-hour nap on the padded chairs in the airport chapel, I finally boarded my flight to Belize City to start construction on a new home for Famisha.

Equipped with the experience of five immersion trips to Belize, I had a good idea of what kind of life lessons this trip would teach me. But 17 hours alone in the airport gave me a great opportunity to reflect on those past experiences before embarking on this trip. These are some of the things I reflected on during that time:

● It is a fallacy to believe that life will live up to your expectations, so embrace the imperfections and grow from them.

● Spend less time striving for material possessions and appreciate all of the non-material blessings in your life.

● Positive thoughts create positive actions, so don’t waste time generating negative energy.

● Patience during times of waiting gives God an opportunity to speak to you, so be still and listen.

● The most constant thing in life is change, so don’t be upset when everything doesn’t go according to plan.

● Our perspective of our circumstances determines our happiness, so embrace whatever situation God has placed you in.

I believe the journey to Belize happened exactly the way it was supposed to. The time I was able to spend in reflection prepared my head and my heart to make a positive impact on the community in Belize City. Famisha and her three daughters were living under a small wooden shack, with wood pallets on a dirt floor that would flood whenever there was rain. These living conditions were causing health issues for her daughters and left them without a safe place to call home. That’s where Hand in Hand Ministries steps in, a non-profit based in Louisville, KY with programming in Appalachia, Belize, Louisville, and Nicaragua. Their Building For Change program addresses the need for adequate housing for the marginalized population in Belize City.

House number #330 for Hand in Hand Ministries was built by a group of people seeking to make a positive impact on the community. The group consisted of people from Louisville, Chicago, Denver, and Saint Louis but the majority of the worksite consisted of Belizeans lending a hand to change the life of their neighbor. A few of the locals would join us at the house after work for a meal and to spend some quality time with the group. The strength of the community in Belize City is a model for how we are called to help one another. There were family members, friends, and strangers that came together and held hands with our group every day to pray before working together for hours in the hot sun. The greatest gift we can give to someone in need is to help them learn how to help themselves.

Learning the stories of people like Calbert, Michelle, Kim, and Narada provide a positive perspective for what is important in life. They are living proof that your perspective of your circumstances determines your happiness. Like the majority of people living in Belize City, they live a life of poverty, but their absence of material possessions has little impact on the happiness of their day-to-day life. There is a lot to be learned from someone who American’s believe has “nothing”. The way they value faith, family, and community creates an environment that fosters love and gratitude for what their life consists of.

After just three days, we were able to build a home for Famisha and her girls, which will stand as a firm foundation for a future filled with hope, security, and prosperity. This experience gave me an opportunity to reflect on all of the things that I am thankful for in my life:

● Family - My mom Marla, who serves as the director of Hand in Hand Ministries and makes the world a better place every day. My dad Pete, who has lead me through the beginning of my career in college athletics. My one and only sister Alli, who will add a brother to our family in November. I am so thankful to have a week with my whole family in California for the wedding!

● Life - My God who blesses me every single day. A car that gets me wherever I want to go. A phone that allows me to communicate with people across the world. Living in a country that provides so many opportunities to be successful. A roof that keeps me dry. A bed that keeps me warm. Water that is clean and plentiful. Air conditioning for the hot summer days. A yard filled with grass, flowers, and a garden. And simply being alive every day.

● Work - Having an opportunity to serve coaches and staff members everyday by allowing them to focus on what they do best. Having people to eat lunch with on the third floor kitchen where everyone is welcome. Being able to create a great experience for student-athletes with our amazing event management team including our student workers, interns, GAs, coaches and staff members. Our facilities staff including maintenance, grounds, custodial, distribution services, events, campus rec, DPS, parking and card services, Delaware North, Learfield and Spectra. I want to personally thank all of the people I interact with every day from those departments because there are so many of them who help do something for us every day to make SLU a better place. Having leadership from senior staff that inspires personal and professional development through trust and promotes my efforts to make impactful change to the look of our facilities and experience of our events.

The most emotional moment came during the house blessing, where we handed Famisha the keys to her new house and her new life. You could feel the liberation of her emotions as she expressed her appreciation for the work we had done for her. But then it was our turn to share with her the gifts that she had given us; gifts of love, compassion, community, and gratitude. We sang songs, told stories, exchanged gifts, and shared tears of joy as the look of deliverance was painted on her face. Saying goodbye to Famisha was hard, but the conclusion of the house blessing meant that the work was over and the vacation was about to begin.

Having balance in life is essential, so we spent the last two days enjoying the best of what Belize has to offer. We took a riverboat nature tour where we came face to face with a monkey. We climbed to the top of the Mayan ruins at Lamanai. We played a few pickup games of basketball with some kids from the neighborhood. We spent the night on Caye Caulker, a beautiful island off the coast of Belize and we took a snorkeling tour where we swam with sharks and stingrays. We worked hard and we played hard, but the balance of the two created a memory that will last a lifetime.

It’s hard to summarize a week’s worth of memories and experiences into one story. The biggest takeaway from the trip was to be conscious of the way we view the imperfections of our life, knowing that perspective of circumstances determines happiness. I challenge you to take a moment to reflect; what are you thankful for? When you start with an appreciation for people and gratitude for all of the blessings you have, then you have the perfect game plan for a happy and successful life.

Petey Cautilli, a 2014 graduate of the University of Louisville, was hired as SLU's Events and Facilities Manager in February 2017.

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.