Punched in the heart by love
Last November my life changed forever; I began to see the world through a new lens, I learned what it meant to “LiveDifferent”. A group of 50 came to Auguas Negras (meaning black water) to build 5 homes for truly amazing people with our organization, WestJet (the second trip of it’s kind for WJA). When I returned from our trip in November the only way I could articulate the experience to others was to say “it’s like being punched in the heart by love”, the kind of love that literally sucks the air out of your lungs and leaves you breathless. It was building life long friendships, strengthening the knot that already tied some together, and it was finding family, community, and generosity like I have never seen before.
And now here I am, 6 months later, sitting in a place that’s as familiar as home. This is a place that I knew I would see again, but I could never imagine what I would feel when I returned. The undertones of anxiety on the plane ride over nagged at me, as I wondered how this trip could possibly compare. It has all felt surreal until today; today we saw “our families” again, the families that each of our teams built a home for. Cole, one of the LiveDifferent leaders here said in our debriefing tonight that with every brick that we lay and house that we build, “we are just trying to catch up with what they are giving to us”. That could not be more true of what I experienced today. As I hugged our proud home owners Jolanda and Obidio, I saw the joy and pride in their faces, and I felt that punch even stronger than before. We are truly given the greatest gift in this experience, the gift of a new pair of eyes – the ones that I will forever see through.
Since my experience on my first Hero Holiday, I have felt that love in every single day of my life, and seemingly I have a little more patience at every traffic light, with the way my boyfriend loads the dishwasher, or my dogs when they track mud on our freshly mopped floor. And I have a lot more love and appreciation for the people in my life, not the things. I have a job to drive to, a home with a dishwasher to load, and a floor to mop. More importantly though, an organization full of amazing and inspiring people that foster our infectious culture of care, (insert koolaid jokes here:), and a family, a boyfriend, and two amazing dogs to love completely and unconditionally. I can only imagine what this next chapter of Hero Holiday will bring…
This experience has taught me more about gratitude than any other moment in my life, so it might be strange to say thank you in a blog post but I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity. Thank you to the people who put this all together – to ALL of the amazing staff at LiveDifferent who made this possible, to WestJet for supporting this initiative and bringing us all together the first time, to Justin for initiating this trip where many of us are returning together, to Donna and Glenn for coordinating and to the friends and family who joined us this week for their first Hero Holiday experience. To those from April and November 2012 who couldn’t be with us on this trip, those who fundraised with us, donated time, money, effort, and even copious amounts of cheese (yes, cheese!) – you are in our hearts with every brick that is laid and every hug that we give. They say “It takes a village”, and there is a village here at Sousa By the Sea, (and back home, but in our hearts), who will have helped to build these homes, brick by brick. There is a village here that doesn’t know they will be leaving as a family.
It’s easy to get caught up in our world of work, text messages, and PVR’d episodes of our favourite shows, but just take a moment to turn it all off and appreciate why we are here. And ask yourself this, “In 5 years, will this really matter?”. In 5 years I see this community prospering. It is already on the road to a new life, quite literally, being re-named Nuevo Renacer (meaning new life). This is what matters – community, connections and being present in the moment. As my coach and good friend Kim would say “What are you watering, the flowers, or the weeds?” You don’t have to build a house to make a difference (but you can!), just spend some time with your village of people, raise awareness for something you believe in, support a local charity, or just plain smile at a stranger. The flowers will matter 5 years from now, so why not give them a little love?
Laurel Myers ~ Hero Holiday volunteer 2013