I explain this a bit on my photography blog. When I end my 9-year, common-law marriage 3 years ago, I hold zero inclination to sit around and mope on the couch, weeping and wafting between anger, bitterness and loneliness. The television set ends up on a shelf in the garage as I am determined not to turn into a zombie watching other people live their lives to the fullest while mine slowly stagnates into hermitsville. (Three years later, the set is still on that shelf. I highly recommend it.)
I decide to go somewhere in the world I've never been and do something while there (versus laying on some beach moping, weeping and wafting). That's when I discover Habitat for Humanity's Global Village program. Psychologically, I'm drawn to this particular organization because things had fallen apart so thoroughly in my marriage and the desire to 'build' something anew (literally and figuratively) is intense: to choose to be constructive versus follow a destructive path. I'm on a new road, a new journey for myself, starting a new decade in my life after a very sad decade. Spiraling into depression and self-pity is not an option. Getting away and being productive ends up the best decision I could have made.
Often when people split, an obsession with petty give-and-take erupts: what furniture he's taking, what CDs she insists she needs to keep. Material pettiness. Emotional childishness. Sometimes an outright battle in court ensues; the ripping apart of every last shred of dignity or morsel of love the relationship once held. It strikes me as such a horrifying way to end something that began as love. My ex and I had been through enough sorrow as it was so we choose to part as amicably as possible. We seek a mediator to help us draw up our separation agreement (already discussed and agreed upon before approaching the third party). We simply walk room to room negotiating what of our possessions will be going with whom. It's all managed somehow without too much bitterness or resentment, somehow devoid of hatred. Some tears are shed, hugs hugged. There are instances when even some laughter bursts out at the end. Like when he farts in the kitchen and I point heavenward with my index finger, smile and say, "One thing I am not going to miss!" and our sides split.
When you pack for your first volunteer/working vacation, you may fall under the misapprehension that you will somehow be helping the people you are traveling towards. You don't necessarily imagine it will be the other way around. But this is what happens. I choose Guatemala as my destination and am assigned to build a rural home with other volunteers for a single mom of six children. What I don't expect is the bond that forms with the other volunteers, the way my heart is touched by these kids, the warmth and dignity of the local people, the barriers between language broken asunder, the absolute, breathtaking beauty of the country itself. I'm humbled. Yes, there is poverty like I've never witnessed to be sure, but the families we encounter know love and laughter and share both openly within the larger community in which they live. Families take care of families. Everyone reaches out.
Small expressions of Joy are everywhere: plastic bags hang as angel wings over doorways; planters of geraniums brighten the outside wall of homes; there is happiness expressed even in the colour of laundry that blows against the shadows of storm clouds which hang over the mountains.
I want to say how organized Habitat for Humanity is and what an amazing experience it was to discover a new country and its people while working to construct a roof over someone's head; what the organization feels is a basic human need. A human right.
It's not all hard work. A couple of days at the end of each work session are reserved for recreation and relaxation. Or don't relax: climb some volcanoes and swim in the water of long ago craters those volcanoes made.
I encourage anyone out there to visit the Canadian or International websites and check it all out, whether you wish to look into volunteering locally or travel to another spot on the globe and lend a helping hand. Kudos to Millard and Linda Fuller, the organization's founders and to Jimmy Carter for hopping on the bandwagon with such fervour back in '84. Really, the organization and all its volunteers do amazing work worldwide.
Altruism, philanthropy, social conscience, global awareness: these are all qualities I hope to instil in my son's heart. They may already be buried deep in there and will only require a little sunshine and water on my part to blossom and bloom. His hands are tiny right now, but I know he will want to lend them to help others someday. His feet are tiny, but I know they will want to walk this Earth we live upon, see what else is out there...
I can't wait until he's old enough so we can go on a trip together! Well, actually I can wait. But I look foward to it sometime down this road we're on together. Such a great way to see the rest of the planet and truly experience how people live and breathe, away from the resorts and high-tourist areas.
To see some more of my photography from the whole experience, click on the slideshow of the sister blog to this blog and peruse my Flickr slideshow. (I'm still uploading for this trip, so there is more to come, I promise!)
Music: De Cara a la pared, Lhasa de Sela
(R.I.P. September 27, 1972 ~ January 1, 2010 - Lhasa, you live on in your voice)