It’s kind of like the first drop on the mammoth roller coaster you are scared of. Your stomach feels like it’s pushing against your brain and you are totally in shock at what you are experiencing; you question where reality is in that moment. But this wasn’t set up for laughter and it didn’t end 60 seconds later with everybody saying, “That was awesome! Let’s get do it again!”.With our summer Hero Holidays in Dominican Republic, we stay in a hotel and our meals are at a buffet. I have been here for 2 months now: I know the schedule of how bbq night ends in soup and cream sauce the next day, and which lunch times will have french fries vs. potatoes. I am well aware that I am blessed to be able to sit down at this table and have the food in front of me. I never want to take the provision of food for granted. But food looks different now. My world has not just been touched by something different – I had an all-out collision.We are adopting a four year old Haitian girl and she is full of life, sass, and mischief. We met her in the community of people that work at the garbage dump in this city. Last year her mom died and her dad didn’t want her. Her family, who works at the garbage dump (one grandma and two aunts) can’t afford to keep her and so all parties involved are relieved and happy to see her move to Canada with us. Sounds easy, right? Many things sound easy in theory!Last week, as she was visiting us at the hotel for the weekend (we can’t yet keep her full-time because we are waiting on some documentation), we sat down at the buffet with her. She wasn’t feeling well, and no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get her to eat what was on her plate. As the staff came and took it away, I watched the plate being dumped into a nearby garbage can. What else are you going to do with someone else’s leftovers? I didn’t really think much of it until the next morning, as I was back out at the garbage dump working with one of our teams.I was walking with one of our team members, showing them what we do at the garbage dump. As we walked, people called out, “Hola!” to us as they smiled and waved, knee deep in garbage. We work with these people, helping them to collect bottles to turn in for recycling and trying to understand their world. We have grown to love them deeply, as we work towards trying to help them have a future for themselves and their children. For many of them, this garbage dump is a source of food, clothing and provision. As I walked with my friend we talked about the crazy difference between two worlds and we dreamed of ways to bring more people to this place to help them understand that we can do something to change it.When I looked up again, we had reached a new pile of garbage and I froze in place. The roller coaster had just crested, and I was on a free fall of realization as I scrambled to try to understand what I was seeing. It was my adopted Haitian family, my daughter’s grandma and aunt. They were standing in the garbage and rifling through the latest pile that had just been dumped. Only this pile could have been from my hotel. This pile could have been from the plate that we had watched leave our own table and be dumped in the waste basket the night before. This pile seemed to scream out to me about the great divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots. This pile was personal.What would you do in that moment? How would you feel if you saw people that you loved standing up to their knees in your garbage, hoping to find something to eat or to sell. Words elluded me completely. I could only do what I thought of in that moment: I climbed over the garbage and reached out and kissed each of them on the cheek and hugged them. Family is family and family needs to help each other when they need it most.As I drove away from the garbage dump that day, life was a little more conflicting. There was a time in my life when the solutions were so simple: it was easy to dream up solutions for other people to make happen. But I have to choose what I am going to do to make life better for my new family and the people that live alongside of them. Now it’s personal.The statistics of poverty and exploitation are mind-blowing. But statistics and numbers can’t reach out and kiss your cheek, they can’t replace the feeling of little arms wrapping aound your legs, of grimy hands reaching out to touch yours. Numbers can’t evoke the smell of poverty or the sounds of a world that is harsh and relentless. Numbers can only numb the sting and make you feel like you are helpless to change anything. But you’re not. You are the change.Each year LiveDifferent (formerly Absolute) works to bring awareness and hope to youth in Canada and around the world. We speak in over 250 schools a year, and we bring hundreds of North Americans on our Hero Holiday trips to experience the power of making a difference through compassion and hard work. You can be a part of the change. In the 2009/2010 year ahead, we have numerous projects in Canada, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Thailand, and Haiti. We need your help. To find out how to get involved or partner with us financially, please check out www.livedifferent.com.****You Could Win our ‘Ultimate Photo’ Contest!Do you have a photo you want to share with the world? Do you or does someone you know want to join us on a Hero Holiday in 2010 and need some help to make it happen? Then we want to hear from you!YOU COULD WIN $250 towards a 2010 Hero Holiday for yourself or someone you choose. All you have to do is submit a photo (MUST be taken by YOU) of you and/or your friends making a difference. It could be you helping at a local soup kitchen, participating in a fundraiser, or even on a humanitarian aid trip such as Hero Holiday. Just go to our facebook page: www.facebook.org/livedifferent.com and click on the promotions tab.You have until September 18th, 2009 to submit a photo you think will get the most votes. Then, starting on September 21st, 2009, voting will start to determine the winner. If you get the most votes from September 21st to October 2nd, 2009, you will receive the $250 credit. Get as many people to vote for your photo as possible, as each person can only vote once per day for each photo. Results will be posted on October 5th, 2009.First Place Prize: $250 credit towards a 2010 Hero HolidaySecond Place Prize: $100 credit towards a 2010 Hero HolidayThird Place Prize: Hero Holiday T-shirt and water bottleGood Luck!