We need each other. Period. No matter who we are, where we live, what our “status” in society, no matter our story, we need each other.
I recently traveled to Nicaragua on a weeklong trek to dig the foundation of a school. This was not my first trip for the purpose of service travel. Every experience is unique. Every organization, every individual engages in this work for different reasons, with different intentions and different purposes.
What I discovered was true of all my experiences, that regardless of intention or goal, we all need each other. We have so much to give and so much to learn, to receive.
I love to engage in this work, to travel, and interact with the communities wherever I am, living with host families, living as they live, learning from them and opening myself up to the world as it really is, not as we are taught or perceive it to be.
In truth, I will never really know how another lives, just as another will never truly know how I live, but these trips provide a glimpse into life as it truly exists. What I have come to know is that while each of these experiences was unique, presenting a myriad of challenges, opportunities, and interactions, one thing remained true; we are all inherently the same. No matter who we are, where we were born, where we live, what we have or do not have, or what we have experienced, we crave and need connection. Connection is what sustains and supports us; it is what unites us and provides us with strength.
Service travel, service work of any kind, is ultimately self-rewarding. We take away so much from ANY experience where we connect with others.
Connection is seeing another for who they are. Seeing them, hearing them, holding space for them to be who they are, not who they, or you, think they should be, or perceive them to be.
We all crave connection. We all crave to be seen and to be heard.
My time in Nicaragua, I lived with a family who had two children, Orlando and Rosmeli and a nephew, Deyling. Each of these children taught me something about connection, as did their parents, and the village as a whole.
When I struggle with things in life, my tendency is to pull away, to detach and disengage, to push people away and to isolate. The story I tell myself is that I can and should do it alone. When in reality, the exact opposite is what helps me heal, what feeds my soul, and nourishes my spirit.
I have recently been obsessed with this quote:
I am so grateful for those “other people” in my life. The ones who remind me to stay present, to stay connected. The ones who pull me out of myself.
Those people come in many forms,
The child beaming with pride as he shows me his horse and the land he farms, the same child who is waiting for me with his ball every afternoon in Nicaragua to Jugar? Jugar? -Reminding me to play, enjoy the moment, and stay open and connected, regardless of what was going on in my head; pulling me out of myself and grounding me in connection.
The little girl who takes some time to open up, but when she does the connection is so strong. Quiet, hesitant, not so sure who we were, or why we were invading her home. At first she was fearful, hesitant to connect, to allow this stranger into her world. With patience, slowly building trust in our own way, we began to connect. As she began to open so did I. She began to question, and engage. She allowed me into her heart and she stole mine. In the end asking her mom my name time and time again, only to turn and call me muchaha with a huge smile on her face, laughing because she knew. Reminding me that even the seemingly hardest of shells, deepest of fears cannot ultimately deny the connection we crave.
The little boy with the quiet smile, who seems shy, but at the same time is reaching out for attention, connection, often hanging back, but in a manner of saying I want in, reminding me that we all connect in different ways, in our own time, but we all desire connection.
The man, offering to help me dig the hole, when it was clear I was in no condition to continue alone, reaching out connecting, supporting a complete stranger. Working together for something bigger then ourselves.
These connections not only exist between the communities and those visiting, but also spiral out into our lives at home.
The connections to ourselves and to each other are what we carry back into our daily lives. Our families open up to new ideas and new ways of thinking, our children are inspired to learn and to live from a place of experience rather then perception, acquaintances and strangers are affected in ways we may never know. That is what it is all about: connecting, community, supporting one another in small subtle ways.
I am grateful for these connections because they encourage me to stay connected to myself, to be present in all that I do. It is through these connections, that I learn how to open up, be patient, and to really begin to see others. Those who help me to connect and engage allow me to be that “other person” for someone else.
It is in this way we will begin to heal, begin to see positive shifts in the world at large and at home. We begin to break down barriers, heal the past, dispel myths, & open our hearts and our minds.