Cinderella Would Be Proud
Friendship can sometimes happen in the most unlikely of ways. We often become friends with others because of our commonalities: what we like, what we dislike, what we are passionate about, common schools or work spaces. But my friendship with Jabon has been based on what we do not have in common, and what we can learn from each other. It is based on an understanding of each other’s worth and though we live in different worlds, it is about how our worlds get to complement each other and how when we share our dreams, we see much accomplished.Jabon is one of many stateless Haitian workers in a garbage dump in Dominican Republic. He is a father of 7 children and has provided for his family from what he finds, collects, and is able to sell at the garbage dump that we help out at on our Hero Holiday trips to his community. Together, we work with them to collect plastic and recyclables to help them earn more money for their families. Jabon is a good man full of character, honesty and integrity. He is someone whom I trust, and someone whose trust I value.While we work alongside our friends at this garbage dump, we often hear them remind us how much it means to them that we treat them with dignity. Many of them, like Jabon, have told us that our help has given them hope. What we have tried to communicate to them is that they are the ones that have given us hope and they are the ones that have inspired us to continue to work for change and to make their world a better place.Jabon had a dream that one day he shared with me and some of the Canadian teenagers that were working alongside of him and the others at the garbage dump. He told me that he had a dream of getting married the following October to the woman he had been with for the past year. For his wedding, he dreamed of wearing new shoes. “New shoes?” I asked. “Yes, it will be a very special day and I have never had new shoes.” he shyly replied to me.Hmmmm….new shoes….I think we can do that! Two days later, with a small group of Hero Holiday participants, we returned to the garbage dump to say good-bye. As we were hugging through tears and smiles, I caught Jabon’s eye. I motioned for him to come over to where I was. Reaching into our vehicle, I pulled out a shopping bag and watched his face light up. Everyone quicky gathered around and started to cheer for him. “Try them on!” someone urged him, and so he did. In the middle of the garbage dump, on top of packed down garbage, dirt and waste, Jabon tried on his new shoes. And, thank goodness, they fit! It was a Cinderella moment if I have ever seen one!A few months after Jabon’s wedding, we had returned to his community again with Hero Holiday. One day he came down to where we were playing soccer with the kids from the village, and he motioned to me to come over to where he was. He introduced me to his wife. And then, he pulled out a picture. A Canadian missionary performed their wedding for them, and his gift to them was a wedding picture. In that picture were two things I noticed more than anything else: one was the look of hope in their eyes, and the other was the brand new shoes on Jabon’s feet. Those shoes represented something to them, to us, and to the community in which they live. They represent the power of hope and of never giving up.In our world, the desperation seems to get worse and worse. Yet, through the people that we get to work with, we realize that change happens one by one, and it can come in many forms. Jabon’s shoes, simple though they may have been, have come to remind me of how simple it is to make a difference in someone else’s world. And this difference begins to happen when we learn to love with dignity, when we are willing to meet a simple need, and when we are always willing to hope for more.