Saturday, March 23, 2013

Sun Kissed

Something I've really come to enjoy: evening walks with my sister, Kabo. Each evening for the past few weeks, we head out around sunset - - simply to walk and chat about life. Sometimes it's just us, other times we find ourselves with other family members & children. Either way, it's a part of my day to look forward to.

Finding comfort in silence is not easy for everyone, but silence on our walks is welcomed and appreciated. We talk when we want, we think when we want. I love these walks.

The sunsets are absolutely stunning - memories I will always cherish after leaving here. Captivated by the beauty and filled with joy, these walks provide a perfect opportunity for my thoughts to flow freely and effortlessly.

As the sun set this evening, I marveled at the soft golden light dancing upon my skin and made note of all I was experiencing:

Holding hands with children with sweaty palms - refusing to let go.

Laughing at my sister's witty jokes. 

Running down the gravel roads, racing with barefoot children at my sides.

Smiling inside because whether they know it or not, I'm teaching them to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Watching the clouds change colors and the sun dip down out of sight.

Praying for the families I greet along the way… that their lives won't be full of suffering.

Contemplating what life is all about.

Accepting the things I cannot change.

Rejoicing in the opportunity to feel truly integrated into my community.

Counting my blessings.

Celebrating all the good in life.

Love & Light,

Thursday, March 21, 2013

With the Sun

As some of you know, I studied with Patch Adams during the fall of 2011 and Patch loves poetry. He has hundreds of poems memorized - - and can recite them however he sees fit as he is working with patients and people he loves. Inspired by his amazing efforts, I began memorizing poetry myself - hoping that I will find myself reciting poetry throughout my life whenever I think it is appropriate.

I find myself without the right words to say right now... which is what brought me to think of this poem. Sometimes using someone else's words help when you're at a complete loss yourself. I send my love, I send my prayers, and I send my positive energy - - as well as this poem. I love Kelsey from the bottom of my heart. She's one of the best people I have even been blessed to know - and she sees the beauty in the world around us more than most. 

If I could be there right this very second, I absolutely would be, reciting these words. Keep fighting to see the beauty in the chaos - know that I'll be thinking of you with every rising & setting of the sun - - and sending my endless love & support with it to your side of the world. 

by Mary Oliver

Have you ever seen 
in your life 
more wonderful 

than the way the sun, 
every evening, 
relaxed and easy, 
floats toward the horizon 

and into the clouds or the hills, 
or the rumpled sea, 
and is gone-- 
and how it slides again 

out of the blackness, 
every morning, 
on the other side of the world, 
like a red flower 

streaming upward on its heavenly oils, 
say, on a morning in early summer, 
at its perfect imperial distance-- 
and have you ever felt for anything 
such wild love-- 
do you think there is anywhere, in any language, 
a word billowing enough 
for the pleasure 

that fills you, 
as the sun 
reaches out, 
as it warms you 

as you stand there, 
or have you too 
turned from this world-- 

or have you too 
gone crazy 
for power, 
for things? 

Love & Light, 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Be the One


  • remember that one person who encouraged you to pursue your dreams?
  • remember that one time you felt like giving up and someone came out of the woodworks to help you get back on your feet?
  • remember that one person you really admired because they "walked the walk" and lived by example?
  • remember that one time you were having a crumby day and that smile from a stranger lifted your spirits?
  • remember that one person who offered to help when you needed it the most?
  • remember that one time your friends/family/coworkers surprised you with dinner, coffee, or cookies - - just because?
  • remember that one person who empowered you to feel like you could accomplish anything you set your mind to?
  • remember that one time when a few kind words turned your whole day around?
  • remember that one person who unconditionally loved and supported you?
  • remember that one time someone texted you just to check in and it made you smile?
  • remember that one person you felt comfortable sharing your life secrets, goals, and desires with?
  • remember that one person who hugged you before you knew you needed it… because they could see your world crashing down around you?
  • remember that one time someone reached out to you and invited you to spend time with them?

be the one.

  • be the one who goes out of their way.
  • be the one who pays attention to the emotional needs of others.
  • be the one who makes a conscious effort to improve someone's life.
  • be the one youth can look up to, admire, and learn from.
  • be the one to encourage others to follow their heart .
  • be the one who doesn't allow jealousy or comparison to disturb relationships.
  • be the one who is playful, light-hearted, and full of love.
  • be the one with open arms and an open heart.
  • be the one who listens with undivided attention.
  • be the one to hug, kiss, and comfort those who need it the most.
  • be the one  who sets aside time to spend with loved ones.
  • be the one who cares enough to make a small difference. And then… be the one who knows the small acts make a HUGE difference.

It's so much easier than you could imagine to be the one. One small act of kindness, one smile, one encouraging sentence… it can all make a difference. The little things start to add up.  It might be impossible to measure the impact you'll have, but isn't it so much better to add a little love to the world - instead of waiting for someone else to do it?

Try it. Laugh a little more. Love a little harder. Joy is contagious…

Love & Light,

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Even My Teddy Bear has a Shirt...

My heart just broke a little bit. I should be getting ready to sleep now, but I'm sitting by candlelight… haunted by the bedtime story I just heard.

Around 8 PM I sent a text to my sister who lives next door saying, "I didn't see you all day, I miss you!" Kabo is one of my favorite people in the village and it's a strange, empty feeling to go a whole day without chatting with her.

A few moments pass and I hear, "Koko!" Kabo comes over with two of the little girls who stay next door and begins telling me about her day. Same ole, same ole. Light conversation. When there is a lull in our discussion of our daily lives, I ask Kabo, "Who is this little girl?"

I've explained before that I have my set of regular children who come and go each day… Gao. Kutlo. Romeo. Ayanda. Kelesego. Maje. Of course, there are others who trickle in and out, but I know their parents, I know which ward they stay in, and I know who they are friends with out of my list of regular children.

But this girl was new. And none of my regulars seemed to know who she was - they simply knew that she was living with them. So after a week of not knowing who this sweet girl was, I heard myself asking Kabo, "Who is this little girl?"

Immediately, I'm told it's a long story. It is 8:30 - that's about my bed time. Bring it on. But I don’t think I was quite ready for the story she told.

Her name is Velmina. This is just a part of her story.

Sweet lil Velmina on the left,
with Kelesego and Romeo.
The mosadi mogolo (old woman) who lives next door to me has a cousin who just had a baby a few months back. Like most women who are working or in school, she's looked for outside help… a nanny to watch her baby. This woman is from the same village as Velmina's family. Velmina's family agreed to let this woman take their child to help watch the baby.

So, last week, mosadi mogolo's cousin brings Velmina, explains that she is trying to finish registering for school and find a house to rent so Velmina has somewhere to watch the baby. And off she goes - - with her baby and without Velmina.

Velmina has been at my house every day. She's free as a bird. There's always a smile on her face. Laughter rings through my house anytime she has stepped foot inside. She's eager to learn. And she's insanely quick to offer a helping hand. She's absolutely precious.

While Kabo explains all this to me, I begin to inquire about why this little girl was chosen. I turn to Velmina and ask her how old she is. "Ga ke itse (I don't know.)" Have you ever been to school? "Nnya, mma. (No.)" I ask her if she has parents in Gantsi, where she is from. Yes, but only her mother. He dad died.

Kabo sees that my heart is breaking and continues explaining that parents who are suffering search to find ways to remedy the situation. In Velmina's case, that meant having a single mother give her daughter over to a woman to be a nanny. This little girl can't be more than 10 years old. At most.

Here she is - sweet little Velmina - running around my house in nothing but her panties, howling with laughter as she tosses my teddy bear around with Kelesego. I learn more. She was brought here with NOTHING. She has one tattered change of clothing and flimsy flip flops. No wash cloth. No soap. No nothing. This girl has absolutely nothing in her name… and nothing but a smile on her face.

Perhaps ignorance is bliss,  but that's not good enough for me. Kabo sees my despair. My guilt for having a blissful childhood and never knowing what it's like to be without… without food, without clothes, without education, without family.

I've decided that I'm going to do what I can to care for this girl who has slipped through the cracks. I'm going to teach her to read and write. I'm going to buy her clothes and toiletries. I'm going to try to get her enrolled in school. The Peace Corps discourages us from spending money on others because it isn't quite sustainable and it sends the wrong impression about Americans and the reason we are here in the first place. I've understood and stuck to that for the most part since I've been here… but I don't have the heart to watch this girl go through life with nothing. I've got to do at least a little bit.

I get a washcloth and soap for Velmina and hand it to her in exchange for my teddy bear who kept her company while Kabo and I talked. Kabo laughs and says, "Whose shirt is that?" pointing to my teddy bear.

"Oh, that's my teddy bear's shirt, " I respond immediately. And then the weight of the whole conversation comes crashing down on me. EVEN MY TEDDY BEAR HAS A SHIRT, while this little girl does not.

Love & Light,