Monday, August 1, 2011

Looking Back

One year ago I was gearing up to participate in the Davis Moon Project’s first group mission trip. When the team met in Washington, DC, to board our direct flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, we all knew this would be an adventure of a lifetime, but none of us knew how the trip would affect us.

Spending my birthday in Ethiopia was a special treat in itself, yet as the day unfolded it truly was one for the memoirs (see post below). That evening, I placed an elephant-hair bracelet purchased in Addis on my right wrist. When I returned back to the States, I contemplated taking it off, but didn’t. At a formal event in November, I contemplated taking it off, but didn’t. I’ve ruined numerous dresses, shirts and jackets as a result of the bracelet’s roughly cut ends catching on the fabric. I’ve created pulls in sweaters, scarves and towels – yet never removed it.

I look down at my wrist every day, several times a day, and remember the smiling faces of children who had so few worldly possessions and so much love in their heart. I remember shoeless, hungry kids who considered a hug from me the best moment of their day or week, perhaps the best moment of their lifetime. I remember the genuine connection I experienced with several Ethiopians that week – and their dark, beautiful eyes looking deeply into mine while we shared a smile.

The bracelet has served as a daily reminder of the fortunate circumstances I find myself in, giving me perspective when day-to-day frustrations come calling. I no longer need the bracelet to remind me and plan to unceremoniously remove it from my wrist next week, though I will forever cherish the immediate love those children gave and the friendly, welcoming people of Ethiopia.

I still struggle with the ability of one person to have an impact where there is such vast need. Then I think back to my own encounters – a single brunch discussion or chance meeting on an airplane – where one conversation forever changed my path in life.

Four years ago Sonja and I were chatting about her and Rob embarking on this “little project to give back in their own way,” which has already improved the lives of so many here in the States and abroad, and I think about a quote from Gandhi: Be the change that you wish to see in the world. Yes. One person, one act of kindness, one trip to Ethiopia, one book at a time, any one of us can make a difference.

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