What can I do to permanently fix the detrimental leaks in their lives? These amazing, energetic, begging to learn and pleading to grow little friends of mine. Money takes one only so far, and until now it held no meaning in our friendship. Even so, money runs out, money gets spent, money is material. To be educated though, cannot be taken from a child. It cannot run out and it cannot be stolen. But it can materialize in ways one could never imagine.
I realize now that I not only made it my mission to fool others, but to be as foolish as possible myself. I take all the roads less traveled, I seek out all the unsafe things to do, and I trust that my foolishness will get me in and likewise out of all the exhilarating unimaginably ridiculous and imperative parts of life. This is what I live for- and this is what they’ve taught me. I treasure them dearly and blame them entirely for it.
But do we always ask for the help that we undoubtedly need but cannot find solutions to? Is it our responsibility as human beings to seek out health and happiness for ourselves? Is it our responsibility to seek it out for others if we deem they are unable to find it on their own? When do morals, respect and pride give way in light of our presumptuous answers to happiness?
Although I had no need for the merchandise he offered, I felt as a moth, sucked in to the iridescent flame that encircles the poor, tentatively touching the flame at will and when I felt the burn would leave the deepest impact. This, feeding a child for a day, buying a book that I did not need, was not the impact I was looking to make, but why? Why had I drawn a line and decided that if I were to make impact, it had to be lasting, deep, and empowering? Where had I lost sight of the end-all-be-all game plan to help those in need?
I asked her when I could come by the shelter and she smiled her big warm smile, slapped my knee, and exclaimed, “We want you now!” The next day I went to meet 15 of the sweetest young women. As Jaya walked me through the house, we discussed the girls’ stories while they joined us in the hallways, a façade of oblivion and bliss painted across their tortured faces. It is near impossible for me to comprehend how a girl, not yet woman, could have endured such pain and struggle, and still smile as brightly as they do. Jaya made me feel so at ease, I left my inhibitions to the wind and asked all my questions.
It was the summer of ’97. I had just finished drying my tears filled with memories of Weibel Wildcat runs, apprehension for the uncomfortable and defining period of my life people kept calling Junior High, and the realization that my innocence would perhaps be forever lost. We spent our days under the blithe California sun sneaking into the neighbor’s neglected backyard concocting stories of the witch and her cauldron of a pool filled with all the potions and magical artifacts that would one day blow up in her face and avenge all her wrongdoings. In the afternoon I would go to gymnastics class, frantically changing in the back of Trooper, the red Volvo station wagon that kept chugging along due to its “sturdy German upbringing,” get to class 5 minutes late, huffing and puffing, having missed stretching, with my leotard inside out, and my grips mysteriously misplaced.
But could I? Could I push the pause button on every waking moment I’ve spent over the last 10 years to build into a successfully happy entrepreneur who makes an impact on the world so I could spend the next 18 years building someone else into a successfully happy young person who makes the impacts I could never make? And if I only half committed to both parts of my new life, would either one thrive to its full potential? Or would they both struggle in the wake of my lack of attention and commitment.
Who is more human? The glazed woman in the dark shades whispering, “Don’t give in. They are better than this, they will never learn otherwise,” suffering from the disappointment that engulfs her. Or the lady with the dreadlocks and canvas tote doling out cookies to the kids whenever they pass, bringing unabashed smiles to their faces. What lies behind our small gestures of humanity and generosity? Are we making the world a better place or setting it further back in attempt to propel ones own self perception up a notch?