Impulsive. Not one of my best qualities. I have had my moments as an impulsive shopper (mostly at thrift stores), and sometimes an impulsive eater. But perhaps the most interesting action I do impulsively is cry.
While others cry lightly during heart wrenching moments at the cinema or at beloved family reunions or departures, I never seem to stir up my emotions at the right moment. Instead I pent them up for a later, usually awkward, time.
Some of my favorite examples of this would be indifferently making it through my first screening of Pearl Harbor only to sob like a baby during the credits and I’ll never forget freaking out my high school boyfriend as I wept in his truck on a casual summer drive, nearly three weeks after our graduation.
I believe myself to be a person who wears my heart on my sleeve and I don’t think that I aim to hold my emotions in. It just appears that they have a bit of a delay when it comes to arriving to my tear ducts.
I have been home from Africa now for three months. I can’t believe how fast the time has gone by. Some days I can think of nothing but my experiences in Tanzania, and then there are others when my new world back in the US consumes me entirely. It has been a rough transition, as expected. One cannot live and love among the poorest of poor and simply return to a life of luxury. I am forced daily to question my relationships and routine. Every element of my life now carries a new air around it, either enhanced or diminished since my experience overseas.
One huge blessing I have had since my return home has been a job. Before leaving for Tanzania I worked part time at a local, family-owned Italian restaurant called Garlini’s and they so graciously have welcomed me back. I have always enjoyed working in the restaurant business mostly because it is fast paced and ever unpredictable. (Although, I don’t get to wear a costume at this establishment like my last waitressing job, which was a little disappointing…) What I particularly enjoy about working at Garlini’s is my truly enjoyable coworkers and management. We are a small team but we stick together and we get along. That is more than I can say for a lot of my past occupations.
However, restaurant business does have its rough patches. The strange hours and long days on my feet can wear me out and picky, rude customers always seem to show up at the worst times. The most difficult part for me however has been more private. It is when I step to the back of the restaurant to scrape food into the garbage and empty water glasses into the sink.
At first the action stung because I would reminisce on how much I desired that delicious, fattening food while I was in Africa. Now, since my hunkering for Italian food is more than replenished, I think about my friends in Africa who are hungry. In Tanzania I scrapped my leftover beans and rice into the bin on occasion, but that bin fed the pigs, which would eventually, again feed us. Now I scrape perfectly good lasagna and fettuccini into a landfill deposit while families even in my own community go hungry. It is sickening to realize how much we waste.
The real stinger happened a couple of weeks ago when a perfectly nice customer made a comment that cut me deep enough to have to fight off tears. After asking my table if they would like a box to take home the rest of their food (robot sever language), my customer replied, “Why not? There are starving kids in Africa, right?”
Luckily enough, I was able to simply smile, hang him a box and make it back to the kitchen to pull myself together. I hadn’t cried since I returned from Tanzania. It was almost as if I was still numb from shock, but this comment had truly hit home. It’s not like I have never heard someone say this before. It is almost as cliché as “I love you to the moon and back,” or “The early bird gets the worm.” But this time it didn’t sound cliché because I knew it was true. I have looked into the eyes of hunger and held its small, fragile hands. This was the first prick out of the numbness of my experience and a reminder that I am not the person I was before.
Though I have since moved back into the hustle and bustle of American life, I haven’t left Faces 4 Hope to be a thing of my past. About a month after returning home I decided I wanted to compete in my first triathlon. The new challenge would push me to get back in shape for summer and I could use the event as a platform to raise funds for Faces 4 Hope.
When I ran my first marathon in 2009, my friends and family extended enormous generosity and helped me raise over $2,000 for 3-year-old Jasmine, to help with medical costs for her 36-week chemotherapy treatment for a rare type of lung cancer. That little girl, once a stranger, is now my Goddaughter. Since then, two others have raised funds for Jasmine’s ongoing treatment pushing the total to over $7,000. God is so good.
I wanted to take on a similar goal for Faces 4 Hope but I figured, why should I do it alone? Maybe God could put Faces 4 Hope on the hearts of others enough to race and raise funds as well. Thus birthed the idea of Team 4 Hope. If I could organize 30 people to race and raise $1,000 each, we would have enough to build a new water tank in Engikaret. Bringing water to this community would bring so much more than hope. It would bring life, sustainability and growth…Things that every person deserves.
I thought my community would be psyched to jump on board a project so life changing! Feeling unsure of were to start I went for the ol’ Field of Dreams approach with “If you build it, they will come.” Structuring the project was easy, logo design was a cinch, and finding t-shirt sponsors was a breeze. I emailed, Facebooked, Tweeted, and reached out locally in numerous ways to find athletes but with only two weeks to go until race day, this project hasn’t come anything close to its goals.
I’ve spent the past few weeks waiting for a miracle. Waiting for athletes to start beating down my door to be a part of Team 4 Hope…but on Tuesday my hope ran out. After some discussion about Team 4 Hope with my mom I got in my car to drive home. I let one tiny tear of disappointment run down my cheek and then all of the sudden months of emotions began rising up and the floodgates opened.
I sat for nearly an hour in my car sobbing, letting the heartbreak of every moment in Africa consume me. Crying for the children who can’t go to school, crying for the women who are treated worse than animals, crying for the sick, the lost, and the hungry. Then I cried out of helplessness. Here I am in the richest country in the world with resources all around me, yet I have failed to raise any significant amount of funds.
Thankfully, I then realized how pathetic I was being. I wiped my eyes, looked at myself in the mirror and asked myself, “So what are you going to do now?”
I am not God. I cannot control all things. But He can’t continue working though me if I give up, can He? David took down Goliath with stones and I am going to have to do my part to take down this Goliath-sized problem of global poverty the same way…one small stone at a time. I may be throwing like a little girl now but over time I know that my aim will improve and I may even be able to inspire others to fight with me.
I recently started reading “Start Something That Matters,” by Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, and it has been very encouraging. Blake had a similar start to his project. He wanted to run a shoe company that donated a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold. While his idea was genius from the beginning, it wasn’t successful right away. During the periods when Blake was fearful of whether or not the TOMS dream would survive he went to a quote by Winston Churchill, “Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”
Sure, I am afraid that more failed attempts lie ahead but I am not going to let the fear of it keep me from moving forward. We all have the power to bring about so much good change in our world but so many of us stop in our tracks when circumstances tell us we can’t.
So tonight I write. In two weeks I will race in a triathlon. A month from now I could be juggling on the sidewalk, throwing a concert, or calling up Bill Gates. Who knows how many doors will open for me or how many will be slammed in my face. All I know is that my heart has been too broken to quit knocking.