Sing for Valeria
What is it about those moments of magic that leave us coming back for more? Why is it that once your heart has been touched by life’s sweetness, you can’t go back? Maybe you do it for the rush: the sharp intake of breath that reminds you that you are alive and present and that this is your experience, your life, your memory. In those moments you feel torn between wanting to try to re-create the moment for others, and cherishing it for your own. Maybe that’s what Brian felt when it happened. Perhaps when he was lying in bed that night, as he was falling asleep, he tried to process the whole experience, wondering if he would be able to re-create it in his own words. I think he succeeded:Half of us knew where we were going and none of us knew what to expect. The sun had already gone below the sea, so we could only barely recognize the face of Maria, the mother of the family for whom we are building a house this week. She greeted us from the warm yellow light pouring out the door of her original house, and we stepped inside onto the tidy dirt floor. Pitiable in broad daylight, this shack, her home, in the midst of the cold of the night, was as warm and welcoming as any house blessed with a mother’s touch.Once inside, I was careful to avoid a young chicken hurrying on its way out of the crowding house, and the stove just by the door, dutifully cooking tortillas as any respectable Mexican stove would be doing at this hour. To my other side sat the family television. A Spanish black & white film set in the Middle East entertained the family up until we arrived. This was to be a special night for them; a special night in a special week. This week they are to get a new house, but tonight, their daughter starts on the road to a better life. Valeria cannot walk or talk due to complications from meningitis and tuberculosis, which she has been battling since age two, but like I said, tonight was a special night. We came with Angel, the locally-known charity wheelchair-builder from the Orphanage, to measure her up. After looking past the sticky fly trap, spiraling down from the ceiling, humming with immobilized flies, I saw her—Valeria, upon the bed where she spent her days. Angel sung, “Baila, baila, baila!” Valeria danced with a joy untainted by the truths of her life—an enviable joy. She relished in the presence of her family and these strangers who she knew were here to help her. We forgot about the damp, moldy walls and the scores of buzzing flies, and became part of the magic. We moved her, hammock-style, using her blanket, in front of Angel’s wheelchair. He measured her. He was proud of her size—much bigger than when he last saw her two years ago. Her father held her hand. That’s when I knew how important this moment was. The new house will be convenient. This wheelchair would enable her to experience sunshine, her community, and the dignity of mobility. For Valeria and her family, this chair is a chance to share the flavours of life.This past week, Brian and our other School of Leadership students, who are currently living in Mexico, returned to see Valeria’s family. Only this time they came bearing a gift: a wheelchair that she can use everywhere she needs to go. Brian helped to carry her outside onto her new wheelchair. It was the first time she had been outside in five years! For the special occasion, Valeria was wearing a new dress that had been made for her by Laura, another School of Leadership student. In Brian’s own words, Valeria “just giggled to herself mischievously” as she was being wheeled around. As these words are being typed onto this screen, I am imagining the songs that were playing in Valeria’s heart: songs of freedom and hope, of thankfulness and joy. Valeria is a life that was changed by someone else’s kindness, and her heart has touched ours.Moments of kindness are a gift, but they can be found everywhere. Our School of Leadership students live that experience every day, and we are proud of each one of them. Thanks Brian! You are a part of the picture we call LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute), but even more than that, you are a vital piece of the picture of what our world needs to look like.”Three things in life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.” ~ Henry JamesHouses in Mexico are one of many projects that we complete on our Hero Holiday trips. This is possible because of people like you. Thanks for your support and for adding your voice to those who need it most.If you would like to know more about our School of Leadership program, please contact us at www.livedifferent.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Your life is powerful and you can join something that is making a difference!