TOGETHER IS A WONDERFUL PLACE TO BE
I had a once in a lifetime opportunity a few years ago. I got to travel with 15 other women to visit the work of Compassion International in Uganda. Compassion International is one of my favorite nonprofits. They do wonderful work coming alongside the poorest of the poor in 25 different countries and through sponsorships they are able to offer food, education, school fees, vocational training, tutoring, principles of hygiene and nutrition and spiritual development to over 1 million babies, kids, and young adults.. Because of their 66 year history as an organization they have seen the fruit of their commitment to release kids from poverty.
When I returned home from my trip I was emotionally spent and physically exhausted. Taking a moment to reflect on my experience, I realized that I was definitely a changed person. I had learned lessons that only come through getting out of my comfort zone and walking, if just for a few moments, in the shoes of someone who has experienced a life so radically different from mine.
two are better than one
In a book of wisdom a very wealthy king once wrote,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one of them falls down, his friend can help him up!”
Getting to experience this journey with a group of women that I had only casually known before our trip bonded us forever. I learned that friends are one of life’s nicer benefits. Friendship is worth the investment of time, energy and money. Because of my shy personality, I have never been one to put forth more than a minimal effort into initiating friendships. I realized what a treasure I was missing, by not taking the time and energy to invest more that just on a surface level in women friends. It was fun to be with just women who didn’t have to worry about how they were dressed or if they were having a bad hair day. We were becoming bonded because of our shared experience.
We had an evening to meet young adults who were pursuing higher education, learning all they could about leadership development, and giving back to the organization that rescued them from the cycle of poverty, I learned that no matter what your age, young or old, we all need to be told we are of value to someone. These young adults shared stories of how encouraging words of affirmation, acceptance and love reached into their souls like a glass of water being poured out onto parched soil. We all need to know that we are of value just because we are human beings. It’s so easy to compare ourselves with others, those who are prettier, more talented, more intelligent, more confident, and feel like we end up on the short stick of life. How easy it is to believe that we aren’t lovable, or enough, or capable of success. Words can become the vehicle that miracles ride in on. We all need to hear the kind of words that bury the truth deep into our hearts.
On our tour of several Compassion International community center sites we were always greeted by women or children performing a traditional dance. Each time we were encouraged to get up and join the dance. Life is more fun if you participate in the dance. And you don’t have to be a good dancer, or even know the moves to have fun! This applies to more than just dancing! Anytime you have the chance to get out of the spectator stands and get onto the playing field, life becomes exciting. Life is meant to be experienced as well as being observed. There is a time for reflection, but without participation reflection isn’t from a perspective that reveals reality.
Those women demonstrated that in life joy and contentment can be found in spite of our circumstances. No matter where you live, what you have or don’t have, joy and contentment are within your grasp if you fix your eyes on the one who can bring peace and calm any size storm. He makes all the difference. No situation is impossible to change, no future is hopeless if you believe in miracles and choose to capture the everyday opportunities to release them into the lives of those around you.
courage is taking hold of the opportunity for change
I wonder how many times I missed seeing good things happen in my life because I didn’t have the courage to step out of my comfort zone and learn to make a change.. On our visits with women I met those who had taken difficult steps to change their situations. Some had to take the test for aids, and risk the potential of rejection by family and the community around them, to be able to get the medicine they needed to be healed. Others had to go against the status quo, the cultural norms, learn new skills to break family patterns, and learn new ways to raise their children. Even for us, as American women, we need courage to take responsibility for our life situations and step in to new ways to see change happen.
Even hard times can produce good fruit. Embracing the suffering and pain of another causes the heart to expand and be able to love more deeply. It’s not easy to enter into the suffering of another. Maybe you can do it for a little while, but it’s not easy to do that over and over again. Choosing to not let the heart harden or become overwhelmed with the magnitude of the situation, results in a bigger capacity for love and compassion.
Life was designed to be lived in relationship with others. The Ugandan women I met knew this, they learned more by coming together. Compassion sponsored kids were helped because a group of women linked arms, brought their unique resources, and courageously took hold of an opportunity to bring change.
We can do more together, and together is a wonderful place to be.