Have you ever read the book Scaredy Squirrel? I’m a smidge like him. I like schedules. I’m afraid to ride a rollercoaster. I’m terrified to zip-line. I rarely go over the speed limit and when I’m in the back seat of a car I always go for the middle (because it’s safest in case of a side-impact collision). I’m not much of a risk taker …I guess I could say that I like “both feet on the ground.” Yet, I find myself many miles away from home with a group of 9 other awesome women participating in a LiveDifferent trip to Dominican Republic. I’m riding to work each day in the back of a truck…..yes, that means no seat belt. I guess you could say that I’m totally out of my element.
So, why am I here? I’m here for 12 year old Maria who I met yesterday. This girl spends her days rummaging through a garbage dump to find recyclables, water, food and anything that helps her family survive. When she pointed to my hand I had assumed that she was asking for my watch, but she had no interest in that; she wanted my gloves so that her job of searching through bags of garbage would be easier. Maria, who ran to a garbage truck with excitement the way my children run toward the Christmas tree surrounded with gifts. Maria who lit up when I gave her my rubber boots and begged me to get her another bag of food. Maria who will never leave my mind and the mention of her name brings tears to my eyes.
I am here for Suly. Who has fire inside her. She bites her siblings when they take something from her. She refuses to be out of a game even though she is clearly out. She won’t get in a “fila” (a line), even though I use my firm teacher voice. Suly, who pushes her way to the front of a crowd to get the biggest balloon. Yet, she climbs on my back when I’m least expecting it (and I secretly love it!). She smiles from ear to ear and shows off that her two bottom teeth are missing. Suly, who could take on the world…if only she had a chance.
I am here for Wendy (Suly’s best friend/enemy). She has attitude of a teenager, but I think she is 5 years old. She pushes Suly back when necessary and is ready for a fight at the drop of a hat. This girl can carry a bucket of mortar that I can barely lift. She thinks it’s funny that I can’t skip as well as her. She has trouble pronouncing my name…and the way she says it is the best, so I hope that she doesn’t get it right.
I am here because I believe that every child has a right to opportunities in life. Maria, Suly and Wendy will forever remind me to keep trying to impact children.
Oh! And guess what I’m doing on Friday….ZIP-LINING!