I told you last week (Friday's post) that I was having a hard time putting words to my Nicaraguan experience. I've really been stumped! As I've shared, I assumed that I would return from my trip and wordy descriptions would be falling from my mouth. Normally, telling stories is not hard for me, but that hasn't been the case.
I've found myself scared to begin sharing, in fear that I won't do it all justice. As is often the case, Tim has come to the rescue. (He is good at starting things, and I am not. I can usually come in and finish up, but I often need his help to bump me out of a paralysis that sets in when I need to do something.) And so, last night he said, "Why don't you just pick one moment or one person or one memory and tell us about that. Don't feel like you have to sum it all up at one time." And then again this morning, he texted me from work with a "just start small - you can do it." Ahhhh, thanks.
With Tim's nudging, I was reminded of the same tip from one of my favorite authors, Anne Lamott. She is an eccentric nugget of humor and reality and religion, and I've enjoyed so much of what she has written. A while back, she wrote a book called Bird by Bird, and I love the story that was the inspiration for the title. Lamott recalls that once her brother had a big, big report due and he was way behind. The report was due the next morning, and he was making the whole family miserable. He was to have spent weeks and weeks researching many different types of birds, and he had done nothing. Lamott tells about her memory of her father calmly sitting down at the kitchen table, gathering her brother and his supplies and quietly saying, "we'll just get it done . . . bird by bird." I love that. Baby steps.
And so, that's how I'll do it. I'll do it bird by bird - or maybe moment by moment.
I assumed I'd start at the beginning, but that's not really how my brain works . . . and so, I'll start mid-way through the trip. One day a group of us traveled (in the back of a Toyota truck - yeah!) a couple of hours from Padre Ramos. Those of us visiting, along with our friends who run the youth camp where we were staying and some awesome young men who live in the village, loaded up bags of beans and rice and fresh oranges to give to the people who live in the dump.
Yes, they really live in the dump. Apparently, their village was destroyed a few years back by a natural disaster and the 'dump' area was a gift of the government - a new place to put down roots.
I want you to meet three beautiful friends I met there. Look into these precious eyes. This seems a good place to start.
Their beauty, their giggles, and their universal kid-like appeal was unforgettable. Walking through the dump, coughing from the dry dust and watching where we stepped, these three sets of eyes were captivating, almost magical. Our fun began when they pretended to be hiding from me, using the palm branches that they were moving (chores, I guess). We laughed and taunted and enjoyed each other for a while then, and their sweet faces will always be with me.
This morning, as I looked back over these faces, I wondered the all-familiar thing, "Why were they born to this and others born to something so much easier? Why?"
We've all wondered the same before, and I assume we'll be wondering about it for as long as we are able to wonder. I stared at those bright eyes and found myself imagining them in a different reality. Just imagine with me, if you will. Imagine the scenery is different. Imagine their sweet faces are smudged with the sugary mess from cotton candy; not the sludgy dirt of the dump. Imagine their chores are to make their canopy beds in their pink and purple bedrooms; not the dusty work of maintaining a home made of found trash. Just imagine. Look at their faces. They look just like the ones we all know so well. Imagine . . .
See the red spot near the back of this image? That's just a little girl, giggling as she plays hide-n-seek with her neighborhood friends.
She could be carrying her soccer stuff in from the car after practice.
She's smiling, as she watches her best friend sneak up from next door.
This little one? She's just about to tell her Daddy that she made a one hundred on her spelling test.
She just told her mother a secret about her crush at school.
They're laughing about having their photo taken again for the yearbook!
She just finished opening the birthday presents all of her friends brought.
Guess what she just found under her pillow from the Tooth Fairy?
They're on a really cool field trip.
She just found out she made the honor roll.
Their swim team just won the city championship!
The class clown just cracked them up again in Math!
She's daydreaming about her family's trip to the beach this summer.
"Come on, you go first!"
"She always makes me go first!"
She just loves her choir teacher!
They always love the first day at camp.
Her cheerleading coach always makes her smile.
They're waiting on their grandparents to arrive for a visit.
They're always messing around at volleyball practice.
No, those things aren't really their reality. I don't know why. You don't know why.
Even more, I don't know why they're smiling. Would I smile? Could I smile?
That's what I'm thinking as I search the souls in these images. I look into these twinkling eyes, and I have questions and more questions. I do know one thing, though. I was there, and they were giggling. They were smiling. They were playing. The sun sparkled in their eyes, and I saw it.
Thanks be to God.