A Trip that Made a Difference to Diadora and ME!
Perhaps you have heard this story before: A boy was walking along the beach after a storm and discovered hundreds of starfish had washed up onto the shore. He began picking them up, one at a time, and throwing them back into the ocean when a man stopped and asked, “Why are you doing that? It will make little difference as there are hundreds of them.” The boy picked up one more starfish, threw it back into the ocean and replied, “It made a difference to that one!” **
I recently returned from Nicaragua where I volunteered for a Habitat for Humanity project. I was overwhelmed with the magnitude of poverty in the small village where we worked.
Prior to our venturing out, we had an orientation led by our Nicaraguan Habitat leader, Aleandra, who reported that there was a need for over 600,000 homes in Nicaragua— either new build or fixing up existing homes in desperate need of repair. And we were going to build ONE HOME! At the time I thought, what difference will this make? How do you tackle such an overwhelming need?
When we met the eventual home owner Diadora, her daughter, and grandchildren, I realized that we were making a life-changing impact for this one family. I saw and experienced the deep emotion and gratitude of Diadora and her daughter for what we were doing for them. I got it—and found joy and happiness for what we were doing knowing that their lives and their children’s lives just took a major turn for the better. They had something so very powerful – HOPE and the feeling of knowing that someone CARED.
Every morning before we had breakfast, I got up at 5:30 and spent an hour by myself reflecting on the previous day and I prayed for the day ahead. I prayed that what I was experiencing and the meaningful lessons learned would be brought home with me. These people are no different than those we engage with most every day. Everyone needs to feel there is hope, that someone cares for their future, and that someone “has their back,” maybe not to the degree I experienced in Nicaragua, but the foundation and fundamentals are the same. I prayed that this would be etched on my heart.
During the week, I walked the neighborhood during our breaks to engage with the children who were happy, playful, and full of curiosity about this gringo walking in their neighborhood. We played soccer in the dusty dirt streets. We laughed and communicated as we had fun. We took selfie photos and giggled and smiled as they saw photos of themselves. I was able to arrange to get some reprints to some of the kids as a special statement that they were important.
I always wondered prior to the trip what impact we would make on the family of the house, but did not comprehend the impact that the people and volunteering would have on me. One afternoon, I walked the entire
neighborhood and was struck with startling and deep emotion. I was humbled with what I was experiencing—being grateful in a way that I had never felt before. I was humbled for my life and how amazed I was at the happiness, gratitude, pride, and care that these families felt and exhibited despite having so little. And I mean so little: no running water, dirt floors, outhouses, outdoor cooking over an open fire—and incomes often less than $100 a month.
I walked away feeling less prideful, and with a deeper caring and concern for those around me. I want to be a more patient, more giving, and open person. I cannot express enough how I hope others will seek out an experience like this as it will deepen the substance of who you are and how you view life around you and the relationships you have.
My trip to Nicaragua as part of a Habitat for Humanity volunteer team and my experiences there can be best summarized by this quote:
**adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley