By Julia Rose
Every few months or so, I sit back in my squeaky roller chair and think to myself, “You know, life just can’t get any better!” I feel content and imagine ways in which I can replicate this same sense of euphoria every day for the rest of my life.
But the Universe has its uncanny way of love-tapping me into new dimensions of the world that I had (of course) not foreseen. Sometimes it’s a wisp of curly hair, a rich green gleam of sun through a blade of grass, a glint of dark mahogany skin that suddenly invites my mind to dance off into a world of unchartered thought, bravely examining the people around me, and the maestro at work inside my head.
Moments like these are lessons in humility. I become a wide-eyed child at the edge of a field of spectacular lilies, looking at a single flower and wondering, How? These moments are also often the most enlightening and the most empowering glimmers of the unknown in a world so rife with surety.
My most recent awakening took place on the dirt roads of Honduras. Surrounded by 22 of my fellow DePaul students, I had arrived in this country with a one-week mission of impacting a small, rural community for the better. It was the first Microfinance venture that Global Brigades had ever undertaken, and here we were- a group bursting at the seems with intellect, personality, and creativity- on this mission trip for a project that most of us knew very little about. All I knew about microfinance was from the scraps and tidbits I’d picked up from reading Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times column over the past year.
On the very surface, we were working with micro loans- small loans given to people in extreme poverty that would help them jumpstart their already-going businesses. These loans would slowly and surely raise them from the category of “extreme poverty,” to the slightly less dire, less severe category of “regular poverty” (this term I find especially in need of a class discussion). Nonetheless, the mission of our Global Brigades group was to be the spark, the impetus for economic development in these communities.
Our two groups spent the week brainstorming and sharing ideas with each other and the Caja Rural board members; visiting families in their pueblo-esque homes, and listening to their stories; and discussing action plans over delicious Honduran frijoles, sweet plantains, and warm tortillas.
During the in-between time- from our compound to the communities (about an hour and a half drive along bumpy mountainous roads)- we danced. We sang. We laughed. At home or at the parks we played soccer until glistening with sweat or until we were called in for dinner. We lay in hammocks, snuggling into one another and sharing stories. Every evening was captivated by the hot air, the clinking of silverware feeding our hungry mouths, and the electric feel of being there, together, doing something extraordinary.
By the end of the week, we had helped one community open 24 new Savings accounts, friendships had been borne and cemented, and a vibrant curiosity and deep appreciation for our fellow humans had been awakened.
Since I’ve been back, I find myself in the shoes of that wide-eyed little girl again. Looking at this one week and wondering, How? How did those seven days make me so happy? How did we literally change the trajectory of two entire communities? How is it possible that I feel more euphoria than I could’ve imagined?
Life, truly, just keeps getting better.