A Special Thank You to Sid the Sloth
Saying goodbye is hard. Airport farewells never get easier, letting go of someone that you love is painful, and even change can be difficult. There are many times on this journey that we have been on in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) when we have had to learn to say goodbye. Faces have changed and positions have shifted over the years, there have been some painful separations of distance and time, and there has even been loss that we have had to support each other through. We have had to wave goodbye to families as our truck is pulling out of a community for the last time, wave tearful goodbyes to kids we are leaving behind in a children’s home and we have had to let go of little hands that we knew we wouldn’t hold again. But through it all, one thing has helped me to hang on: knowing that I am not alone.Almost anyone will tell you that one of their favourite parts of an LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) Hero Holiday is at the end of the day. Not because we are done the hard work and not because we get to escape back to our comfort zone. Rather, it is because it is when we sit down and connect with each other and have a debriefing on the day’s events. It may not seem like much to you, but when your world has been rocked and you are realizing that there are way more questions than answers in life, sometimes it is really great to be able to have someone that has shared the experience with you to walk alongside of you and challenge your way of thinking.This past Christmas, we had two Hero Holidays happening: one in Mexico and one in Dominican Republic. In Mexico a family received a house for Christmas and it changed everyone’s life that was involved in the process. In Dominican Republic we helped two families get solid foundations on their homes, as well as worked in garbage dumps, helped at an orphanage and had a Christmas Fiesta with a community that had never had one before. I was in Dominican Republic and something happened that came up when I was talking one evening with some participants. On Christmas Day, we went to a village and played soccer with the community in the afternoon. It was a lot of fun and we made some great memories. But the memorable part for me happened when the sun went down and we set up the big white sheet on the front of someone’s house.Right there, in the middle of that little village full of stateless, impoverished families, the evening became magical as we all stood around together and watched Ice Age 3 in Spanish. For many of the people there it was the first time they had ever seen a movie, and as Sid the Sloth bumbled through his adventures with the woolly mammoths and saber toothed tigers, the crowd tittered and giggled non stop, elbowing each other and pointing at the screen. Children gasped in surprise when the action got intense and all eyes were glued to that transformed white sheet for a full 90 minutes. There was no crunching popcorn, no beeping cell phones, and no whispers, only rapt attention as each person wanted to drink in the whole experience.As I stood there among the crowd that night I was reminded of why I love to go to the movies at home. Entertainment is not about critiquing someone’s performance or about always needing to see the latest film. Entertainment is a privilege and it is a gift to be able to get lost in a story for a while, no matter what your situation is in life. In some ways, entertainment is as much of a human need as many other things. It may not have seemed like much, but to be able to offer that community something that gave them a lift out of the normal tedium of survival, it was a gift worth giving. As the movie finished and the crowd began to disperse in the dark, one little boy was walking by our team and they heard him say in Spanish, “This is the best Christmas ever!”. We didn’t come with gifts or anything fancy – we had no gifts left to bring. We came with our friendship and with something for all of us to experience together and that alone made that night special for him and for us.As we sat around later that night, debriefing over the day’s events and processing what we had experienced, each of us saw something different in the evening. We each appreciated different aspects of the day and how much this Christmas would be one for all of us to remember. And the next day, while many of our family back home would be fighting their way through the boxing day sales and finishing up their third or fourth Christmas meal, we woke up and smiled and laughed at the gifts we had received on Christmas: friendship, laughter, and a new appreciation for the value of spending time with people that are important.Today is the beginning of the rest of our lives. Each day is a gift and each breath is a blessing. What we choose to do with our time, energy and resources becomes both our offering and legacy that we give to the world around us. Saying goodbye to another year is bittersweet for me as 2009 was a great year for us in so many ways and we each experienced moments that we will cherish forever. But 2010 is full of exciting possibilities and you can be a part of it!From all of us in LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) and on behalf of every participant and beneficiary from each of our programs, we wish you a Happy New Year! Together, we can make 2010 a special year for countless lives around the world!