I have to be honest: it was a little hard to look her in the eye when she was pouring out her heart to me. I felt weak, helpless, and I felt the sting of injustice in a whole new level; it was as if I was seeing my life for the first time from another perspective, and I was entirely uncomfortable.Hero Holiday Dominican Republic was now over for another summer. Vaden, myself, and three others had taken the long trek to the south, where the country borders with Haiti. It was hot, I was tired, and I was trying to process where I was: standing in the middle of the poorest neighbourhood in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. We were on the edge of Port-Au-Prince, in an area called Cite-Soleil, and my life was changed by what happened that day. As we crossed over the foot bridge that spanned over a river of deep black sludge, human waste, and rotting garbage, I held Vaden’s hand, and tried to imagine what a place like this could look like if it did not look like this – but the image eluded me. In truthfulness, it was a very difficult to conjure up an image of hope in that moment: my senses were assaulted by the pungent stench of human waste and years of refuse that has been allowed to rot in the sun, by the sight of numerous scantily clad children with orange-tipped hair, tiny limbs and partially bloated bellies, and by the ever-present feeling of sadness settling over everything. In a place like this, survival itself seems to be a momentous event to celebrate.As we walked up to the group of people staring at us, she caught my eye almost immediately. Her name was Analecia, and she looked so tired. Her eyes were sad, her hands weathered, and her clothes looked like they were doomed to be eternally filthy. She was a single mother of 7 kids, but it was what she said when she looked me in the eye that struck me: “We have nothing and no one cares. We watch as our children starve to death in front of us, with no hope of feeding them enough to survive. Yesterday, 15 of us put our money together to buy one pound of rice between us for our families. Why does no one care?”I had no answer for Analecia, only the silent tears in my eyes as I bowed my head in recognition of her intense need. I wondered what it would be like if, in that moment, her eyes were mine and mine were hers. What would I see differently? What would I view as important and worth giving my life for? What would I be willing to do for those whom I loved?During our Hero Holiday trips, we each spend many hours and days with incredible people in a very bizarre set of circumstances, always on journey together of self discovery and global awareness. Together, we build schools and houses, we hold orphans, we work in garbage dumps, and we aways find time to celebrate a house build or finished project with a community party, dancing, and singing. Each time I am in that place, I am always in awe of one thing more than anything else: there is nothing except birth that has separated my hands from theirs. My eyes see life from this view purely because of where I was born, and not because of anything I could have ever done to deserve it. I am privileged, and I cannot deny what this means. Analecia’s eyes held mine that afternoon because they were eyes that reminded me to keep going, to keep believing that something can change, to keep joining hands with those who love the poor and reach out to the exploited.Analecia, your eyes have told me of deep truths that I needed to be reminded of, and they have stirred a compassion that is not letting me sleep at night. I am left without a choice and I am now compelled to become a voice for you. I now see your pain as my own, your success as dependent on mine. Thank you for having the courage to look me in the eye. It was what I needed to realize that I need to look back into yours and recognize that I am not left powerless; I can be a part of the picture that can be envisioned for all of us. My eyes have met yours, and I am changed.
Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger. Every year 15 million children die of hunger. The world is going hungry. The numbers are too much, and the statistics make it seem insurmountable. But we see it differently: we see it as a possibility and an opportunity for each of us to be a part of the solution, both today and for the future. There is hope for change, and it starts with educating ourselves to educate the world. In 500 B.C., an anonymous Chinese poet wrote:“If you are thinking a year ahead, sow seed. If you are thinking ten years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking one hundred years ahead, educate the people…By sowing a seed once, you will harvest once. By planting a tree, you will harvest tenfold. By educating the people, you will harvest one hundredfold.” This year, through our Hero Holiday programs and with the help of our participants and partnering organizations, LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) is endeavoring to finish another school in Dominican Republic, begin the building of a school in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, and complete a school in Baja California, Mexico. We need you! Please consider partnering with us with your time, resources, financial help, and even joining us on a Hero Holiday.”What saves a man is to take a step. Then another step.”C.S. Lewis