Wednesday, March 11, 2015
I had no idea what the retreat would be like. The first night I met wonderful women (Eyerusalem, Itzel, Natalie, and Veronica) staying with me at the hotel in Little Rock. We all got settled in and had dinner together at KFC. We ended up staying there for almost three hours just exchanging stories from our backgrounds and college experiences. I felt so lucky to get to know them better. Friday night I got no sleep. After dinner I was incredibly excited to meet the rest of the team. My mind was racing imagining what the rest of the weekend would be like. My thoughts went back to the stories I read on the MHIRT CBU blog, and I got butterflies in my belly from imagining some of them.
Saturday we were picked up and I got to know the rest of the team. I sat in the back of the van and immediately felt so comfortable around everyone. We began introducing ourselves and exchanging stories. What sticks out to me the most about my time at the Heifer ranch is our dinner-making experience. Throughout the day I mingled with all the ladies here and there, but while making dinner together I felt a closeness I haven't felt with others in a while.
I learned some valuable lessons. I always thought of myself as a listener, but there were a few times where I didn't listen to my elder (Dr. Fitzgerald) or forgot about the elders because I was so caught up on cooking. This was interesting because I realized that I can easily be unaware. It is something I want to work on moving forward. I was also reminded how much I love the human touch and how it energizes me to be close to others. Itzel put her arms around me and Sushma and Veronica leaned on me at different parts of the night, and it really warmed my heart and soul.
As the fire dwindled, we all grew a bit tired and went to sleep. Initially I felt fine, but as the night progressed, the cold seeped through the layers of fiber and thread I wore. This night my mind wasn't racing with happy thoughts, but it was racing with thoughts of how I could possibly make it through the night. I wondered what time it was. I thought of all the layers I wore and images of homeless people near my campus came to mind. They don't have nearly as many layers as I did. My thoughts grew negative and I felt frustrated that my body would not get warmer no matter what I did. I felt angry that people had to sleep like this on a daily basis. I thought of how easily it could be to get depressed and hopeless.
Then Ashley whispered to me, "Hey girl, you awake?" I said "Yes!" She, Veronica, and I shared how hard it was. We all encouraged each other, even though the cold did not leave. I had to use the bathroom, and Ashley offered to go with me. Talking to Ashley and Veronica really helped me get through the night. Every single person in this retreat really moved me. We were all strangers not long before, but the love and unity I experienced was deep. It helped me stay positive in the hardest moments of the night. It reminded me that this is what matters in life: to connect with others, exchange stories, listen to others, and love love love.
After arriving home I feel hopeful that despite all of the corruption, wars, and injustice in the world, there are people like the MHIRT Team and the Heifer Team who want to improve conditions in the world and who feel strongly about advancing the human condition and spreading love and peace. Everyone this weekend truly empowered me to keep striving towards realizing my dreams and to not apologize for my existence. I can't help but think of the quote:
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." -Marianne Williamson