Tentatively, I set my gray, soon to be rust brown, boot onto the hard ground and out of the comfort of familiarity, the comfort of the known, out of the bubble that I had unknowingly lived in everyday of my life until that point. I was off the bus and in the village of Chilombo in Malawi Africa. That step, was a beginning and an end, was a start, a step into the unknown and would be the most incredible experience of my life, thus far.
Nervous fear trickled down my neck in beads sticky of sweat. The self-deprecating voices in my mind reared their ugly heads tauntingly saying, ‘you’re the shy girl’, ‘what are you doing here you’re only 16’, ‘they won’t like you.’ Something touched my palm shaking me from my suffocating thoughts. I looked down, a little girl of maybe four years old was looking up at me, her charcoal sparkling eyes mitigating my fears. I held her hand in return, her courage breaking down my reserve. Everyday of the two week long trip she’d find me and hold my hand. This destitute angel had crossed the invisible line in the sand in-between our two cultures and landed herself permanent shelter in my heart.
This life-changing experience was made possible through the organization Children of The Nations (www.cotni.org) . My youth group formed a ’venture team’ and went for two weeks to Malawi, a small country in southern Africa. I can’t begin to imagine what my life would be like had I not gone. Prior I was aware that people lived in utter poverty, I knew the statistics, a child dies every 8 seconds from starvation, 80% of the world lives in insurmountable destitution, etc. I knew them front and back inside out, but not until I saw the little angel with hair patchy from malnutrition, or the grandmother we helped with daily chores who didn’t have any food to eat, that was unless there was some left over after her grandbabies had eaten, did I really know what those words meant. That they were more than statistics rather were a living breathing reality. It put a face to those facts. COTN gave me the opportunity to see what most of the world sees everyday, to hold the hand of a malnourished child, to work alongside people who had nothing and yet had something I was missing. The people and children of Chilombo had the ability to love despite their circumstances, to have joy despite their poverty because of their awareness that things fade, and circumstances are out of our control and thus can’t be relied on for happiness. The only thing we do have control over is the choice to live life and love others. The little angel, to me epitomized this, she wasn’t jealous, she never asked for anything from me, just to hold my hand and along with it my heart.
Since that two week long venture my heart, my mind, and the whole momentum of my life have changed. I’ve learned from the grandmother to say thank you and genuinely mean it because people don’t have to be nice to you they chose to. And I have learned from the little angel to reach out, to grab someone’s hand and hold on, to live out and to love out because that’s how to truly live. It has nothing to do with how much money is in one’s bank account and everything to do with one’s willingness to reach out and grab the hand of another.
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