I have experienced times where language feels like it limits me. There have been profound moments in my life where I struggled to articulate the depth of what I have experienced. I find myself in this very situation trying to describe what my trip to Puerto Plata meant to me.
There are two stories that have stuck with me since meeting a few members of this impoverished community in Puerto Plata, Nuevo Renacer. One women spoke of having to send her 3 children away to live with other family members because the “house” they live in was unsafe and unhealthy. My heart sunk. As a parent I can not imagine being put in a situation where I would have to make that decision and then live everyday not being with my kids.
Is it possible for my heart to sink further? Yes, and it did.
I had no idea, it never occurred to me to dread the rain as these families must. The shanty type structures are no match for a passing shower. The tin roofs leak and rain means hours of clean up, risk of mold and struggle to keep beds, blankets and clothing dry. Life is not easy and the rain merely adds a new level of survival and worry. Rain? Really. I never considered that before. I look around at the structures in my own community and note that our animals are housed in better conditions than these families. Really? Yes. My heart sunk once again.
I woke up at around 5 am and heard the rain. It was my second night in the Dominican and I was warm and safe in my room after visiting the community that day. It wasn’t just a few drops, it was a down pour. It came down in sheets. Three nights before, if I were to be woken by rain, I would have rolled over happy to hear the patter of drops as a soothing back to sleep melody. Instead, this night I had numerous flashes of the families scrambling and working to keep dry. Were they bailing out their homes? Scrambling to find buckets and tarps? Moving to a neighbors home to wait it out?
I grew up in a middle class family. I never had to worry about the roof on our house. I didn’t realize how much I took my home for granted, my way of life for granted. I never considered that rain could be nothing more than a melody until seeing their living conditions. Since I have been back I give thanks to my warm, secure home. I give thanks that my kids live with me and our home provides them a safe shelter. These families gave me a priceless gift of perspective and gratitude.
I left the Dominican Republic with many insights. The one thing that surprised me the most is that I didn’t leave with a sunken, heavy heart. I left feeling grateful that these people welcomed me without hesitation. I left feeling hopeful that improvements are happening and people are creating a better way of life. I left feeling inspired that there is more good happening in this world than all the bad that we seem to be inundated with. I left with a full heart and my experiences there will serve a big part in how I choose to live my life.
They taught me the power of working together for the greater good. They showed me what it looks like to be part of a strong community. It was blatant, I can’t explain the energy I felt as children wandered and people watched over. There were so many people and yet it felt so intimate. I am in awe of the community they have created. I left with an expanded perspective of my own life and how very fortunate I am to live the life I do. I left with a greater sense of what community means.
I will think twice now before I complain and the rain will always be a reminder to stay grateful.
This Live Different trip showed me what the statement “Life is about people, not stuff” actually feels like and what it means. I felt it.
We don't have to travel far to experience the power of this life changing philosophy.
Thank you Live Different for all you do to make this world a better place. I feel honored to be part of your extended team.