I’m a very reasonable, pragmatic guy. A serious planner. It’s my role to plan and oversee. But more on that later.
I arrived in the Dominican Republic yesterday with a team of about 35 for a Hero Holiday. A bit of background on me: (besides my overbearing need to plan) I’m 35, happily married and live in Vancouver BC. I travel a bunch for work and have seen some stuff and some things (nothing surprises me!) I, like many, associate the DR with white sand beaches, cigars and baseball. Much of this is about to change.
The reason I am here is my kid sister Kelci. This is her third Hero Holiday and this time she convinced my wife and I, my older sister and her husband to come along. A real family affair! We all saw her drive and enthusiasm and wanted to share this experience with her. This is Kelci’s second trip as team leader. She spearheaded all the fundraising (2 benefit song and dance concerts, pub nights, bottle drives etc.) and organised nearly three dozen schedules in two different provinces. She’s the catalyst, we are along for the ride. All that said, my relationship with Kelci is quite unique and pretty clearly defined. You see there’s a considerable gap in age. When she was born, beanie babies and the Fugees were huge. When I was born, it was more cabbage patch kids and the Bee Gees. There’s a decade and a half that separates us, I moved out before she turned 3. So while we are close, my relationship is more so that of a really cool (I hope) uncle than that of a traditional brother. Keeping that in mind, I guess it’s understandable that I tend to nag or discipline my sister at times. After all, I’m the big brother, the pragmatic one. The planner. Anyway, I guess I’m saying that our roles are pretty clearly defined. At least I thought as much, 30 some odd hours ago.
Today was eye opening. I quickly (thank goodness) realised that planning and preparing for this trip was not at all the point. Once I let go of my preconceptions and dialed in on the present moment, the day began to take on it’s own momentum. We visited two communities, including the one where we’ll be building three homes this week. We met many inspiring people including our staff and trusted leaders Kent, Kelly, JP and Aelea. We met Garcia, a local pastor, teacher, community leader and one-man instrument of change. His story of overhauling the village of Arroyo Seco was nothing short of remarkable. We also met the people we will be building for this week. Though our meeting was brief, my first impression was that of a caring, humble, intelligent and grateful family. It was surreal to stand within the half finished walls of their future home and hear Iris, the mother, tell of too many days spent living in flood water. I did not detect any cynicism in her tone, only gratitude and humility. There was a ton of gravity (and yet another reshuffling of perspective) in that informal first meeting, at least to me. I began to really see the impact that this place has had on Kelci, my sister and countless others.
I wasn’t really prepared for what happened next. We were encouraged to visit the home of Thomasa, the woman for whom Kelci’s team had built a home the year previous. I had seen many pictures of Thomasa and her family, but was looking forward to meeting her. As I walked up to the house I recognised from pictures and looked in the open door, I saw Kelci, Thomasa and the returning members of their team standing in a circle inside the home, singing. Kelci and Thomasa were in the centre of the circle dancing. Everyone was laughing and crying. There was such a look of pride and joy on my sister’s face, and through the crowd, I caught her eye and shared in that moment. Now, I’ve watched my sister plan and organise this trip for a year. Countless hours of spreadsheets and fundraisers. I’ve witnessed her passion, her anxiety and her drive. And while I’ve always been proud of her, it’s not until that moment, that I clued in. Why this meant the entire world to her. I was lucky enough to witness the pride, the generosity and the love that made all that hard work worthwhile. That moment she was in her element, and I got to witness that. It’s very hard to put into words, but at that moment something shifted.
I’ve always been proud of my sister, but I think it took witnessing that moment to realise that our roles may be shifting a bit. Perhaps she doesn’t need a disciplinarian or a “cool uncle” anymore. I’m very much looking forward to the next week here in the DR. Getting to know a very unique and deserving family and building something tangible. But in all honesty, if I had to go home tonight, that would be ok. Given the events of my first 30 hours here, (the kind of stuff that thankfully can’t be planned) it’s already been a success. All thanks to my kid sister Kelci.