The stories that every person holds

08 July 2014

Tuesday our work resumes.  Luckily Josh wakes us up and not Dan.  No need to be petrified out of bed.

We get all ready, excited for the day, and back to Moya we go!

We arrive with big hugs from the preschool children!  Then we head out to the field to play with a large parachute.  Were those parachutes a traumatic experience for anyone else as a kid?  I remember sitting in a circle with all the other kids, holding the parachute in our laps, legs underneath it.  Then a couple adults are underneath as "sharks" coming to get you.  But of course, because I'm a child, I'm imagining REAL sharks.  And as I watch my friends get yanked hard and disappear under the parachute, I'm just sitting in horrified anticipation screaming in my head "HOLYHELLHOLYHELLHOLYHELL!!!"  And then something grabs my ankle, and I black out.

Like, who invented a game where you pretend to KILL children??

Well, we don't play that game with these kids.  Instead, we tell them on the count of three to run under the parachute and then we trap them inside.  Then we watch all these tiny little lumps run around in search of freedom.  Because, death by group suffocation is a more comfortable fear then death by shark attack.  Or something.  Anyway, it's fun for them.  But after awhile, we must return to our projects.   

Some of my friends head back to the garden, but I sit down with Hailey and Ryn to complete the mosaic wall.  We spend all morning combining concrete with creativity.  After several hours, our hungry stomachs distract us from work, and we gather under the shaded overhang of another building and snack on oranges.  I lay down on Dan's legs, and he tells me about how similar this work is to his time in construction.  He complains about his back pain, which he has mentioned every 20 minutes of this trip so far, and later the boys give him so much grief that we don't hear another word about it for the rest of the time.  Lucas:  "It hasn't been completely confirmed, but in case no one's heard yet, Dan may have back pain." 

Then Josh comes back with boxed lunches.  Fried chicken with rice, beets, and coleslaw.  I select my box, sit down against the wall by Kelli, and when I roll over my chicken breast to eat, I realize I chose a baby mama.  Giant yellow eggs still attached to the bone.  I gag.  "Just like eating a balut in the Philippines.  You got this,"  Kelli says.  I just eat Chris and Matt's beets instead.  I did the balut thing once, and I don't have anything left to prove.

After lunch we resume our work until Josh gathers all of us for another adventure at a different school.  We clean up our supplies and drive to an all-boys high school called St. John's.  Super white name for a school here, but okay.

We walk across campus, noting eyeballs peering at us from all the classroom windows.  We're led to a large room where a large group of older African boys file in behind us, and we intermingle with each other in a large circle.  Josh explains that we have come all the way from America to help with their community.  But today, we'd like to have a discussion group and learn of each other's stories.  Most of the stories of the boys involve at least one, if not both parents, passing away from HIV/aids, and many of the boys live completely alone.  Later I become friends with a 19 year-old boy named Sandile, who has been living on his own for SIX years.  Makes me really sad.  But they all have such strong desires to be good men in the community.  Very impressed. 

Several members of our team are encouraged to stand up and share as well.  Dan stands up and is honest about his journey with drugs and how it has really chained his life.  Ryn stands up and shares the type of "never-enough" unhappiness prevalent in the States, disclosing her own struggle with depression.  Josh closes the discussion group by explaining that every day is a blank page, and we can choose a new destiny for ourselves each morning day, no matter the past, no matter our stories.  We hug, we commend, we commiserate. 

Then we all file outside to the back field, for what will become the most blessed event in all of human history.  Watching some dance teams prepare for a competition.  Oh, yeessssss please.  Several African dances are performed and then a hip-hop routine. 

Afterwards, we mingle with each other.  The boys are shy, but Josh tells me if I talk to them, I'll make their life.  So I pull a couple of them out of the crowd to teach them the waltz and the salsa.  Who knew African boys could blush so much.

Such a perfect afternoon until we must leave to go back home.  But first we have to rescue Angelica because these boys are loving her.  Dan pulls me in, "Boys gettin FRESH!  Glad I have you."  Okay stop.

Later that night, after a hearty spaghetti and salad, Dan leads a discussion group about life pivot points, sharing a turning point of his own where he stopped caring so much about the past and future and decided to live fully in the current day.  Which I must agree, he certainly is good at that.

Then he encourages us to each share a pivot point of our own.  And, basically we all share the hardest and most emotionally awakening pivot point we've ever had in our life.  Tears, stuttering words, whatever we each need.  Later Dan concludes the meeting by saying "weeeell that was not a light conversation as I expected. But this is fine too.  Hope you all got it out."  And later when Josh suggests another discussion group, I respond, "We may be running low on personal and heavy things to share."

What a blessing to belong to such a group of people where everyone feels so safe and comfortable to share every side of themselves.  Shame and judgment are unknown concepts, and we all forget they exist.  Moments of breaking down in front of each other are all okay, understood, and accepted.  No trigger, no unresolved piece of life, is left excluded.  To love is to mourn together, as much as it is to serve together.  To put on a smile and hard-working face for a full day, to listen to other people's stories, experiences parts of their lives, and then come home and fully and comfortably share our own.

That is the world I believe on.  

Then I drift off to sleep with gratitude for the full human experience.  Found in every part of the world.

Upward and onward,

This little one ran up to me every morning and gave me a BIG hug.  Miss that daily morning greeting.

Hailey, Davy, Candace, and Heather ready to pull up the parachute.

Ryn and Kelli with the littles.  LOVE these ladies!

ALL the children felt that I should carry them back to the school.  Just holding two was a struggle.

Look ma, I do art!

The finished wall!

The boys coming out to dance.

The one in the center.... That man can DANCE.  Still googly-eyed over him. 

Guy on the right...fantastic dancer!

Bring the beat in.  Hip-hoppers.
Taught a couple of these boys to waltz and salsa.  No more of that.  African dancing only from now on.

My friend Jamil.  (Ja-meel)  Such a sweetheart.

I watched them 4,000 times that evening.  Even while I was peeing.  Good dancing me gusta mucho.

My favorite dancer is the main singer.  And the bird sounds are the other boys.

My favorite is the man on the far right.  His face while dancing... Oooooh heavens.  I will forever hold my biggest regret as not filming SOLELY him.

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