At the end of November 2017 I took an 11-day trip to Nicaragua. Most of that time was spent in Jiquilillo (hee-key-LEE-yo), a small, rural village on the northwest coast. I traveled with 11 other women entrepreneurs from around the world, all members of The Courage Collective. The purpose of the trip was threefold: business mastermind, adventure, and giving back. Together we worked on gaining clarity on the missions of our businesses and how to get our messages out into the world. We also did many exciting activities like riding horses on the beach, surfing, paddle boarding, and sledding down an active volcano.
While these experiences were amazing, nothing can compare to the impact that our giving back had on me. We painted one of the homes in a local women’s co-op, we brought and handed out gifts at a local elementary’s graduation ceremony, and we purchased a literal ton of clay that the local people will use to create animal whistles that they can sell to help support themselves.
It was our final day of the trip that changed me forever and provided a clarity that I had been seeking for sometime. We traveled about an hour on an old school bus to Limonal, a small town right next to a garbage dump. We were there to feed 300 children that live there and use the dump as a playground and a workplace.
While I have lived a privileged life, I have been raised to consider and care for those who have very little. I’ve seen hungry people before. I’ve seen poverty before. I’ve volunteered in similar places. However, something about this day touched me at a deeper level. It seemed to bypass my thinking mind, and move straight into my loving heart. It ignited a mission that up until that day, laid dormant.
While half of us prepared the meal the others half played with the children. We colored, too photos, picked them up, and ran around like a bunch of kids ourselves. As the meal cooked over an impressive fire in three of the largest pots I’d ever seen, we were taken on a short walk to see the dump. I carried one little girl of about 5 years old who fell asleep, her arms around me and her head on my shoulder.
As I looked at the dump, I sensed the hidden dangers that lay within and saw the smoke from several places where it was on fire. I wept. The thought of that little girl playing in that massive pile of trash, of her needing to rummage through it to find anything she could sell, I was overwhelmed. I wanted better, I wanted more for the precious child I held in my arms.
We walked back in time to serve the meal. Children from all over the village came with their plastic bowls, cups, and buckets to get in line. When it was my time to serve I quickly starting filling buckets with soup, and I was just getting into a rhythm when my ladle hit the bottom of the pot. I looked down and realized there were many empty bowls still in front of me, and as I turned around I saw one child for each bowl waiting anxiously to be fed.
My heart sank. Then my anger rose. How could we not have enough? How can I possibly go and eat lunch, mere miles from here, knowing I can have all I want and more? And how can I continue professing “Heal yourself and you’ll heal the world”? In that moment all my work seemed so selfish, meaningless, and a luxury of a privileged life.
Fortunately I was able to take the time to process this experience more, and talk with the others who were there with me and experienced many of the same feelings. I realized that my work and my understanding of the world were not invalid or meaningless. Instead I discovered greater clarity on my purpose and the “why” I do what I do. There are many people out there, in all different kinds of circumstances, that can use a helping hand. If we are here stuck in our routines, following someone else’s vision for our life, or weighed down by the regrets of the past and fears of the future, then we are not able to fully give the gifts we were meant to give.
If instead we are able to live authentically, following our heart and our purpose(s) we not only create wellness for ourselves, we are also more clear about our mission in life and empowered to fulfill that mission. Each of us are a vital piece of the whole of creation. When we follow that inner calling we do our part to aid in the healthy functioning of that whole. Whether that’s impacting one person locally, or thousands around the world, it doesn’t matter. We each have a part to play, and when we own it and follow it, the world can heal.
I am so grateful for my experience in Nicaragua. It made such an impact on me that I’ve already booked another retreat down there for the first week in December (more details coming soon!). It’s a big task to take on, but I don’t even think about that at this point. I’m so focused and excited about the work we’ll be doing, I know that it’s inevitable that it will work out perfectly. Looking back on my recent trip now I can see that I had to hit the bottom, of the pot and in my mind, to be able to rise up stronger and with more passion.