There I sat in the middle of their circle of chairs, all of them looking at me. I felt their dark-chocolate eyes soaking in every detail, taking me in, and I lost all confidence.I looked at those thirteen boys and never realized that they were going to change my life in only 10 days.;Our group of 24 from Westbrook Church had left the safe, luxurious comfort of Hartland, Wisconsin on April 9th, 2009. We had a mission; we were going down to the small town of Azua, “the forgotten people,” located in the Dominican Republic about an hour outside of Santa Domingo. We were to build a basketball court for the school and run a children’s camp. My specific job was to teach English classes. My vision, me sitting and reading to impoverished children from a book, and them soaking in my every word adoring me. I was an arrogant, ignorant girl, who soon learned one cannot predict life.
It was at a funeral I attended my first day in the village.I was eager to go with Pastor Raul and meet the boys he had taken under his wing.The sad occasion was for the youngest who had been killed the night before by a drunk driver.But now, as I found myself alone, I didn’t know what to do. I looked back at the boys, my mind searching for something to say, blanking on all Spanish. Suddenly, they began to speak, not in Spanish, but to my great surprise, in almost fluent English.Before I knew, it I had learned all of their names, and they had immersed me into their lives. We shared dreams, theirs’ being to go to college and become someone, mine being to speak fluent Spanish, and understand the world.Well, to these boys, dreams are only possible if you set your mind to it and work hard.They all had a dream, that’s why they taught themselves English, studied in a one roomed shack of a school, and worked three jobs each.My dream to them was something they could help me accomplish.No longer did they speak to me in English, instead they made me speak Spanish, teaching me phrases, words, and making me work harder than I ever have. I let them take me from everything I knew, and they taught me how to open my eyes to the world. I hung on as they took me for moped rides, flying down the dusty, narrow streets, showing me their homes, introducing me to the people, helping me look through their eyes for 10 days.The people welcomed me into their tiny homes, giving me their only chair to sit, sharing with me a piece of their life, and it blew me away.These people had nothing, yet they had more than I could ever have. They had a love for every moment of life they were blessed with.My constant guides were these boys.They never let me out of their sight, and one was always with me to keep me safe.Every day I learned more about how much I take life for granted.
I was not the teacher. Instead, I was a student, and I learned that you can never live in a box.What those dark skinned, chocolate-eyed boys taught me about life I will never forget.Life is short; I had met them at a funeral. You can’t perdict the end, so live it to the fullest, with a passion and purpose, not forgetting to stop and be grateful for every breath.
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