A Hand-Up, Not a Hand-Out - My Family Travels

Great Barriers

            I have grown up in the same city, the same neighborhood, my whole life. I have worked the same job, played the same sports, and talked to the same people. I have never had the opportunity to see anything else, or experience a different lifestyle. However, this summer for one week, my eyes were opened to a new culture and way of living. A trip to Macedonia, through Habitat for Humanity, changed my outlook on relationship barriers.

             Walking up to the worksite on the first day, to say I was scared would be an understatement. I was going to work side by side with foreign construction workers, who did not know one bit of English, and build a house a family would eventually live and raise their family in; two things I was not sure I could handle. Adding in the fact we would be constructing in traditional Macedonian style, one where safety was not a main concern, I was just a little unsure how this week was going to play out.

             My first task was to help rebar the roof of a third story apartment. If the ninety degree weather was not enough, I quickly realized these men were behind schedule; therefore no breaks would be issued. We worked diligently and somehow, along the way, the expected, sweaty, silence was transformed into something new. English and Macedonian could be heard over the twisting and breaking of rebar. Although we did not have a clue what the other was saying in words, I connected with a construction worker using an old nail and my hands. Charades and Pictionary broke through the language barrier.

            Stoyanche worked at a factory, but lost his job once Macedonia gained its independence from Yugoslavia. In a home built from his own hands, he supports his wife, children, and sick mother. His son is employed by a French cruise line, while his daughter is still living at home. Stoyanche is very proud of the fact she is studying English. Without any form of insurance, he is careful not to get hurt on the job, as he needs the ten dollars a day he makes, to provide a better life for his family. Unfortunately, Macedonians now need Visas to get into other countries, and so Stoyanche does not think he will ever be able to leave his home in search of greater opportunities.

            I got all of this from a nail, concrete and some gestures.

            Being in Macedonia and meeting Stoyanche has made me realize connections can be made over the greatest of obstacles. They have instilled in me a sense of openness and an urge to establish relationships with people different than myself. I now realize cultures and lifestyles may look different on the outside, but truly we are all just trying to gain happiness for ourselves and those people we care about. I take every chance to share this idea with others.

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