They have a piece of my heart

I’ve written lots about the children in the Dominican Republic who stole bits of my heart. But I haven’t adequately explained my feelings for the people I traveled with. (Warning: Mush ahead).

I had vague impressions about several of the people before I left home. I felt like I was already friends with Shaun- among other things we’d already talked about our 3 year olds both of whom prance around in swimsuits and heels, Miss America-style. I guessed by their blogs that Melanie and Jennifer would be people I would enjoy. But the rest of the crew was a mystery to me.

That first afternoon in the Miami airport, as we gradually assembled, I had the chance to chat with various people as they arrived.

Jennifer was warm and down to earth. There was something familiar about both her manner and her face– I never figured out what it was, but I suspected all week she might be some long-lost relative.

Melanie has a deadpan rapier wit that had the whole group dissolving into laughter even in the first few minutes we were together. She continued to make us laugh all week.

When Tim and Nick showed up, I greeted the adorable Nick (it was so nice to have kids in the group) and then immediately assaulted Tim with questions about “Pagan Christianity” a book I’d been reading and wondered if he read. Thankfully he had no qualms about discussing theology with someone he’d known for exactly two minutes. But he’s a blogger after all– we bloggers are used to shooting off opinions to strangers.

Marlboro Man (husband to Pioneer Woman) and I found common ground immediately: horses and homeschooling and our stance on kids and chores. (It’s good for ’em, in case you’re wondering.) His girls’ escapades on the escalator made me giggle and grab my camera– and miss my own kids a little more.

Shaun jumped in immediately with teasing– it wasn’t til later that I read his blog post speculating whether I was “a little nuts or highly medicated. I got even by running over his feet multiple times with my wheeled carry-on.

Brian (or ’86’, as we called him later in the week) immediately got me yakking about Ethiopian adoption, which is a sure way to make me feel comfortable. Turns out he’s in the middle of the adoption process himself.

Keely had returned from a trip to Peru the previous day, but was spunky and ready to go again. Her phenomenal pictures added so very much to my blog posts during the week.

Steve (once he had wolfed his pizza!) greeted me with that genuine smile of his that made me feel like he was truly glad I was there. And his actions during the week made his warm heart even more obvious. (See, Steve, if you had a blog I’d link to you here, not myself!)

The week gave much more opportunity to get to know each other. The daily bus rides to the various projects. Mealtimes at the hotel and at the various Compassion projects. Then of course there were the evenings, sitting around that horseshoe table in the conference room, yakking about everything under the sun as we tried to get meaningful words out onto our computer screens.

By the end of the week there was such a sense of camaraderie, of rich and honest friendship. We shared so many experiences that it felt like our friendships had been put on fast-forward.

We watched each other reach out to the kids, striving to interact with them in a way that would be bigger and longer-lasting than the short amount of time we had with them. We read each other’s thoughts about the day in blog posts, and in the process saw viewpoints on the day that we missed. We saw each other’s eyes mist up, awash in similar feelings for the kids, sad over the struggles these kids faced, but joyful at the hope that Compassion has brought to their lives. It was tremendously invigorating to me to be in the company of people so like-minded, so passionate about the welfare of children.

When I broke down on Thursday evening, JoAnn, another of the Compassion staff, was there to talk with me, and give me tissues and hugs. “I’m not going to tell you it’s going to get easier because it won’t,” she said. “Actually, the more you see [of children in poverty] the harder it gets.” Not easy words, but ones that resonated. It should not ever be easy to see children in need. Her understanding of my wildly flailing emotions was a comfort to me, even though my hurt was not something she could truly fix.

We asked about each other’s family and looked at each other’s family pictures. Shaun said even hi to my family via Skype. And of course we teased each other mercilessly. Actually, listening to the talk bouncing around that table as we blogged in the evenings, it was a wonder that we got anything of substance written. Most of us walked across two freeways to see the ocean up close and some of the crazier ones of us even did a little cliff-jumping.

Keely cliff-jumping

Keely cliff-jumping

When it came time to say goodbye to the group in the Miami airport, I was full of regret. It felt like we’d known each other six months, not six days.

Maybe we’ll meet again in this life. I hope so. But whether we do or not, my life is greatly enriched by these new friendships. The chance to see Compassion at work was wonderful. But I count these new friends as some of the best gifts from this trip.

Thanks, y’all. The trip would not have been the same without each and every one of you.

{ 9 Comments }

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I have lived vicariously through you reliving some of my own experiences from visiting Haiti. I want to never forget, but sometimes do getting lost in the day to day.

    Thanks again.

    Angie – heartchild

  2. I’m so jealous! I wanna do something like that.

  3. Oh I love mush!

    I couldn’t have made the group any better either. I thought it was a wonderful mix, and all of you did make a fantastic trip even better.

    By the way MM’s “They’re good for ’em” just can’t translate in writing. Ya gotta hear the slow deep Oklahoma drawl to fully understand it.

    We did “gel up” pretty quickly.

  4. Loved every minute of it.

  5. And I’m sure I’m not the only reader to have appreciated being able to follow the trip with you through your wonderful posts. Thank you.

  6. Mary –

    Thanks for being a part of this trip and lending your amazing writing to the voices of these children in the DR. These posts will continue to have legs to them and children and sponsors will be changed forever.

    And thanks for the good adoption advice!!!

    Brian

  7. That’s just what I imagined a blog trip would be like! I am praying that one day I will get to do something like this for Compassion and the children that they help. Thank you for sharing your days and your emotions with us. You all did a fabulous job!! I pray that hearts were moved and commitments to help made.

  8. Thanks for making sure the pizza episode made it into a blog. 🙂 Mary, the glow that radiates from your heart is truly a gift from God. You have a way of makng everyone aroud you feel loved. Thank you for making us a better group. You are wonderful!

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  1. […] Airport.   We were on our way to spend a week together in the Dominican Republic along with several other bloggers, where Shaun (who’d invited us) would be showing us the work of Compassion International.   […]