Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No One Else Can Play Your Part - World Suicide Prevention Day

I believe that every person is on this earth for a specific purpose. It is not an accident that anyone of us was born. We each have a purpose, and what’s even more important/powerful/significant than that is that nobody else in the world can accomplish what it is we were put here to do.

You are the only one who can play your part. Pretend life is a play, well guess what, you don’t get an understudy. And that’s because nobody comes close to being you. We need you. The world needs you.

The world would cease to exist as we know it if you weren't here. You might think that sounds silly, but it isn't. 

You WILL do something during your lifetime that will impact another human being. You may never know that you were a part of it, and they may never know you were a part of it, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is you.

It could be you telling someone you like their outfit, after they just had all of their friends tell them that they look like a weirdo. Your compliment could be just what they needed in that moment to realize that it is more important to be an individual and make yourself happy than it is to pretend to be someone you’re not to get your so called friends to like you. 

That person then starts telling others about how important it is to be happy with the person that you are.

Embracing individuality and not being ashamed of who you are. 
Not being ashamed to talk about your struggles. 
Giving that person the courage to share their story, to share how they have battled with mental illness.

When you aren’t afraid to share your story, other people aren’t afraid to open up to you. Someone begins to tell them about their struggles. Tell them things that they have never told anyone else. That person just became someone that they can trust. Someone that they will take advice from. Someone that they know cares about them. 
ometimes people just need to know one person cares about them. When they feel alone in the world, it only takes one person to change their life. To make them feel like life is worth living.

So you are the one who gave the compliment. 
Guess what. 
You just saved someone’s life. How amazing is that. 

Now that person (the one that realized life is worth living) is going to go change someone else’s life somehow. That pattern is going to continue. I promise. 

So that one tiny thing you did, well – it just changed the world.
So next time you think that you don’t matter. That you aren’t important. Think again. Because you alone are going to change the world. You may never know it, but you will. You are an essential part of this world that we live in.
And I just want to let you know that I need you. 
We all need you.

Find more at

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Contrary to Popular Belief - Global Volunteerism

This week I came across a few articles that really hit a nerve with me. They are talking about Americans volunteering in different countries, and they are talking about it negatively.

"On these trips, we hide behind the lens, consuming the world around us with our powerful gazes and the clicking of camera shutters. When I directed this photo opportunity and starred in it, I used my privilege to capture a photograph that made me feel as though I was engaging with the community. Only now do I realize that what I was actually doing was making myself the hero/star in a story about 'suffering Africa.'” found here

found here

These articles that are being written about the problems with Americans volunteering are really just dumb (I have no desire to make it sound prettier than that). They are really just attacking the principle of volunteering as a whole. Who cares if people who go and volunteer are more privileged than the people they are serving. They are using their privilege for good. Which is what the world needs, people who take the abundance from their lives and share it with people who need it.

I don't care much about the opinions of the people who wrote these articles.
But I do care about the people who are gonna read the articles and proceed to judge me and anyone else who goes on international volunteer trips.

Thinking about this today I got a knot in my stomach. I am so upset that there is a possibility that people will see my pictures from my time in the Dominican, and judge me, my trip, and where my heart is.

I'm not sure how many people go on these trips, and come back with the kind of experience that this girl had. I honestly am baffled that she went on this trip multiple times after feeling the way she did after the first time.

The best week of my year for the past 3 years has been the week that I spend in the Dominican Republic on a missions trip with my church.

This girl went on her international volunteer trip three times. And what I got from reading the article, she did not feel like she did anything good for the people she was serving.

A lot depends on the organization 

There are a lot of different organizations that you can go through for international volunteering. And they all are very different. Have different missions, different values, different impacts.

My church has partnered with Food for the Hungry Through them, we have formed a ten year relationship with the community of Sierra Prieta. Both sides come bearing privilege and poverty. We do not come in and provide a quick fix for these peoples needs. We provide them with knowledge to help them to become self sufficient.

Before we go on the trip we are educated about different kinds of poverty. As privileged Americans, we tend to assume that we don't have poverty in our lives. And after being educated about it, we tend to assume we have the better kind of poverty. We get to have all of our wealth and possessions and privilege, while these people live in run down houses in the middle of a jungle, with no running water and very little electricity, and even less possessions.We are told that our poverty is a relational poverty.That we are lacking in how much we value time with others, and how little we really get to know our neighbors and people in our community.

And with that some people are fine. Some people would choose to have possessions instead of relationships everyday for the rest of their lives.

The privilege we bring with us comes in the form of possessions. Toys for the kids to play with, cameras to take pictures, clothes that we don't intend to keep, and shoes that are in tact.
Their privilege comes in the form of their entire life. These children are the happiest kids I have ever seen in my life, and they have found that happiness without being spoiled with shiny new toys. I have been offered toys by some of the children I have formed close bonds with. These kids have maybe 5-10 toys. And they tried to give me one of them. The community makes sure that everyone is provided for. Nobody really has extra food or money, but somehow they find ways to give to the poorest in the village to ensure that nobody is too hungry. They make sure that everybody has a change of clothes. The older kids look out for the younger kids, even if they aren't related.

Anyone can have a possession, it doesn't take special skills like kindness, patience, and selflessness. But what theses children have, very few Americans will ever be privileged enough to have.

Money can buy our privilege, but it will never be able to purchase the privilege that the people of Sierra Prieta have.

And we say that they are the ones living a life in poverty.

Our privilege is much more temporary than theirs and our poverty is far more permanent.
We are able to send teams into their villages and teach them ways out of their poverty, but nobody is coming to us to get us out of ours. I don't think that there is anyone who could come into America and successfully open our eyes to our poverty.
These trips exist exactly for that reason. Because Americans would never just listen to others telling us that we are living a life in poverty. So they kinda trick us into going on this trip thinking that we are going to change these peoples lives, to bring them something great because we have been blessed with the privilege of possessions and money.

But we find that this isn't the case at all.
We do not end up being the heroes of the story of a suffering nation. We are the ones being saved, we are the suffering nation.

Money cannot buy the life changing experience that comes from spending time volunteering internationally. And this girls story is proof of that. For a trip like that to be meaningful, you must be humble enough to recognize how much poverty is truly in your own life and how much wealth these forigen people have to offer.

There is nothing wrong with taking pictures

I bring my camera every year and I, myself, take very few pictures with it. I bring it for the kids. The camera was a present for graduating 8th grade, so I have had it for quite some time. I don't care much about the camera, it isn't worth anything to me. But what I find invaluable is the pictures that the children take on my camera every year.

Last year someone on our trip brought a portable photo printer and we decided to put that to use. We made sure that every family in the village got a family picture taken.

Now where we come from thats not a big deal, we can take pictures on our phones at any given moment. We have been raised with pictures put into frames and on display around our homes for us to walk past without giving them a second thought. To us, the pictures are minuscule.

But for the people in Sierra Prieta, this is something they will cherish forever.
They do not have any family portraits. The family picture that we took, may be the only one they ever get taken. Ever. They put on their nicest clothes for this occasion, and made sure the children stayed clean until it was time for the photo. Which isn't an easy task.

Every year we bring prints of the photos we took the year before. And we pass them out to all of the children. These are prized possessions.

Last year we had the privilege of having a large screen and a projector set up to show the kids Finding Nemo, but before we did that we showed them the video we made of our trip from the year before. The kids asked us to play it again because it was so exciting for them to see themselves on the screen. It was a magical moment.

Photos are a necessary part of the trip. They remind us of our experience and how much we learned about the poverty that we have in our lives.

I will not stand for people judging my experience based off of people who clearly don't get what these trips are all about. The Dominican is my happy place. I love the children that I have bonded with more than I ever imagined was possible. I dread the day that our ten year relationship comes to an end, and I'm almost certain that I will have to be forcefully removed from the village on that day. My time there is never enough and when I say take me back, I really mean it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My Empty Nest

For anyone who is a first child, or an older sibling, there was probably a day where your parents sat you down to tell you that mommy is pregnant and that you are going to be (in my case) a big sister.

I don't remember the day this happened to me, but I'm sure that my parents communicated to me that I was going to have a very important job of looking after my baby sister. They probably gave me a book to help explain the changes that were to come and what being a big sister entails.

There are books parents can buy to help them through different developmental stages in their children's lives, and books that help them deal with siblings that aren't getting along.

And when this time finally comes, there are books available for parents to help them cope with their children going off to college. Describing how things will change, and how to adjust to the changes that will take place.

They don't make books for big sisters telling them how to deal with their little growing up and going away to college.

I chose to go to a college in the same state as my family because 1) I got a full ride to any in-state school, and 2) I wanted to be near them still.

I knew that being near them would make the transition much easier on everyone. And I have loved being able to be near my family still.

My parents are going to have an empty nest, but they don't have to go through the "mourning" process that most empty nesters have to go through because they have me, the one who stayed.
Me, the one who does have to go through the mourning process because nobody told me that 1/3 of that nest was going to up and leave one day.

I was the oldest meaning I got to decide whether or not the little was ready for me to be gone. So I thought I was going to be the only one who ever got to make a choice, and my choice was - hey lets all just stay near each other.

When I left for college, my big sister job status went form "working overtime" to "working full time."
And now that the little sister is leaving for college I'm going from "working full time" to "working very part time."

And I'm not sure I can continue to make a living with these hours. 

Most employers give you a heads up that your hours are going to get cut before it happens, give you support and help you cope and perhaps find another job if you aren't going to be able to support yourself with the hours that they can give you. But I was not given this warning. It happened out of nowhere. Granted I was given 18 years, but I was oblivious to the fact that my duties weren't going to be required as much.

I don't know if younger siblings are ever explicitly told, which makes it really special when they do finally come to know, that they have a duty too. But there comes a day where the little sibling has to start looking out for the big sibling.

I'm just now realizing this might be why there is a difference between first borns and the youngest (when there are only two). For the first borns - they take you at your most vulnerable time of your life and tell you that you are going to have a job for the rest of your life to take care of your baby sister. This is something that you have known your whole life and feel obliged (happily obliged) to carry out your job per your parents instructions. As a first born I have been dependent on this title for basically my whole life.

And the youngest ones, they get to find this out for themselves. They realize that as they get older, the oldest one is also going to need some looking after. This is why the youngest can be independent. The baby comes into the world with no duties, nobody to look after other than themselves. They learn about their job when they have grown enough to realize that the oldest is actually in need of a "big sibling."  They come into their role on their own. They don't do it because their parents told them to. They weren't always defining themselves as the one who had to be the stronger one. They were the baby, they could do what they wanted and could be carefree.

This is why my sister has the ability to leave the nest cause lets be honest, I didn't really leave, and I don't think I have the ability to leave, nor do I want to.

My sisters senior year was not an easy one. Nobody makes it out of high school with out some tales of battle, but her senior year alone was more tolling than what most others go though in their four years of high school.

If you have talked to me about my sister leaving for college, I've probably told you that she's not ready. That I don't think she will be able to do it on her own.

But I am basing this entirely off my experiences. I wouldn't have been able to do it on my own. I wouldn't have been strong enough. I was not ready to leave. And I am also probably saying she's not ready because in all actuality, I am nowhere near ready for her to leave.

I can think of no reason for why Haily had to have such a rough senior year, other than it was preparing all of us for her leaving the nest. It was testing her to see if she had the strength to take whatever life put on her plate. And it was proving to us that she indeed would be ready to take on the world, even if we weren't on duty full time anymore.

I feel like I have grown so much closer to my sister in the past three years/since I moved out. As we've gotten older in age, the more we can relate to each other; the more I feel like we are friends.
This year we have spent many weekends hanging out together because neither of us had anything else to do. And we never early did much, but I have loved those nights.

I don't want to miss out on all the opportunities I would have to grow closer to her if she were to stay in state and hang out with me at ASU for a year before she decided to go off to California for college. But I am coming to realize that I would be keeping her from opportunities she has to grow on her own. I don't want her to need us and her not be able to have us at her side in 30 minutes. But this is growing up, and both her and I are going to learn how to be in a long distance sister relationship.

If you ask me now about my sister going to college, I will tell you that I believe with all my heart that my sister is strong enough to go live in California on her own. She is the strongest girl I know.

No matter what, my sister is always going to need me (I just am always going to need her to need me).  Even if my job is only part time, I am going to be the best part timer the world has ever seen. And now when we do get to see each other after being apart, the time will be even more special.

I love you little fist and know you will do great things at Point Loma.