The Act of Teaching
Lugging a suitcase around an airport with only thirty minutes of sleep the night before isn’t the ideal way to begin an enormous humanitarian trip in the Dominican Republic. With so little energy, I didn’t feel overly enthused about meeting forty-something new people, struggling through Spanish, and suffering through the extreme heat and intense humidity – not to mention the incredible workload I would be taking on in the following ten days. And now, here I am; I’m just wrapping up Day 4 on my Hero Holiday and I’ve already had a handful of incredible experiences.
One morning on the worksite, I was given a task that involved a shovel and a group of muscles that I never bothered to develop. When our translator asked who wanted to pull nails from boards, I immediately volunteered, thankful for being assigned an easy job. It wasn’t easy. “Nail removal” quickly became “yank on the nails, give up, put the board in another pile, wish for stronger deodorant, grab a new board, and repeat.” A local elderly woman watched this process for a while and then beckoned me over in Spanish. Although we didn’t speak the same language, she began to teach me the best way to remove the nails (put an extra board by the nail and use it as a booster for your hammer so you don’t have to pull as hard).
For the next little while, she guided me: she straightened out crooked nails, she loosened up tough ones, and she held down the boards to keep them steady. She would never do the job for me, but rather would demonstrate, hand me the hammer, and smile. It would have been less stressful for the entire worksite if this little old lady had just taken over the Nail Removal Site and let me take a siesta somewhere, but she took the time and care to teach me how to do it properly. By the end, we were celebrating each completed board with a cheer, a high five, and a quick exchange of Spanish and English that the other never understood. When we finished for the day, her and I even compared biceps (she acted impressed at my muscles, but hers were much bigger so I think she was just flattering me).
The next day on the worksite when it came time to remove the nails, I didn’t have to worry about nails with a mean curve or two boards being nailed together. The little old lady worked alongside me, smiling as wide as ever. This really ties into the whole “give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime” philosophy that I believe is at LiveDifferent’s core. We’re providing a house, yes, but we are also involved in creating a better community and helping the local economy by hiring contractors. I’ve experienced many awesome things – a waterfall hike, a pool party, and the cool relief of an ocean swim after a hard day’s work – but this woman’s act of patience and guidance is something that has been vital to my experience thus far. I can’t wait to see what the remaining days will bring. And I can’t wait to tell this story to my Dad, who I assure you will say, “You didn’t know how to take out nails?”
Shanae ~ Hero Holiday Volunteer 2013