It was green, white, and clear, and it was in my hair! I had spent months raising money to go. When I arrived, they spit on me.
I wiped the goo out of my hair as best as I could, climbed into the back of a rusty truck, and survived 3 hours of potholes and stares through the streets of Port au Prince as we drove out into a rural village.
The children greeted me when I arrived. I was an American celebrity. They guided me to the church and motioned for me to sit in the front row, then plunked their half-naked bodies next to me. The service started and the Pastor invited me forward.
My 16 year old self stood awkwardly next to my interpreter looking into the eyes of an entire Haitian church and the dirty, smiling faces of the children.
It was time for me to speak, but I couldn’t. I have nothing meaningful to say to these people. I'm so rich and they are so poor. Oh God! They are so poor...
It was my turn to stare. My arms felt like dead appendages. My heart was thumping inside of my chest. Suddenly, I had no idea what to do with my body. I was hyper-aware of everything.
Shoot! Why did I wear this skirt? Its too short. Maybe I shouldn't have worn make-up. None of these women are wearing make-up! What do they think of me? I bet they think I'm a prostitute. AH! They keep looking at me! Can they tell someone spit in my hair?
I tried to reason with myself; Charity. They're looking at you because you are STANDING ON THE STAGE!
I willed myself. SAY SOMETHING. ANYTHING!
I have no idea what I said that day. I’m unsure if the interpretation was accurate. My 16 years of “wisdom” was weak, at best. But, something profound happened. Something changed inside of me.
When I got home, I just kept doing things for Haiti. I raised $15,000 and sent it to the orphanage. I traveled back a second time and worked. Later, when I started college, I chose to minor in Intercultural Studies. After graduation, I got a job working at an anti-human trafficking organization, which later turned into a consulting business for ministries and nonprofits.
One little trip to Haiti changed my life forever. Before this trip, it was my dream to help the impoverished in the world. Afterward, I realized I could stop dreaming and start taking steps to realize it.
THE 3 STEPS BETWEEN DAYDREAM AND DREAMS FULFILLED
Looking back, I can see that there were 3 distinctive steps between me sitting in my bedroom at my parents farm in rural Missouri dreaming about being the world’s next Mother Teresa, and realizing that I could BE the world’s next Mother Teresa. (Still working on it!) No one was stopping me but myself.
Dreams are not realized by wishing. At some point you have to take a calculated leap of faith.
Haiti was a long way from rural Missouri. I had to make an intentional jump to go. I had to be willing to be uncomfortable, to ask others for money, to be spit on, and ultimately, to humble myself and serve.
If you’re standing at the edge of a “dream cliff” wondering if you’ll make it if you jump, the best advice I could give you is that you never know unless you try. But, don’t just jump into the abyss. Instead, jump where you know you’re going to land with someone who is doing something similar to your dream.
It’s never going to be feel easy or secure to jump, so it helps when you can see someone on the other side who’s made it. They were not ruined in the jump, so you won’t be either.
Once you jump off the cliff, it’s easy to think that you’re going to land right in the middle of your dreams. Unfortunately, the reality is that we get spit on along the way sometimes. We get lost, tongue-tied, and we don’t know what to do or say.
It’s OK. This is real life.
Walk beside and behind someone who knows more than you. Learn from them and serve them. I remember when I got older and decided to take the jump from working at a corporate advertising firm to serving non-profits, I found women who were kind enough to show me the ropes.
They were not necessarily interested in taking the time to drink coffee with me and “mentor me.” These were busy women who were making great things happen. Instead, they allowed me to do life with them, something later I’ve found to be much more valuable than a cup of coffee and advise that I wouldn’t have known how to practice into my real life anyway.
Dreams are more real when you surround yourself with people who have realized similar dreams to yours.
My enthusiastic teenage self would have told you that I was going to spend my entire life in Haiti upon graduation from college. I was so passionate.
Passion is good. It drives us from complacency to action. But, there are moments in life when we must be flexible.
Maybe you’re not going to get to pursue the passion you had in mind. Again, it’s OK. Be flexible with it and keep trying.
Your original dream can lead you to a better, more realistic path. If I didn’t dream about doing good in the world, I wouldn’t have later quit my corporate advertising job and taken a leap to work with nonprofits.
I didn’t end up living and working in Haiti. But, life’s journey took me to many more places, and today I have two beautiful children my husband and I adopted. This was a dream I didn’t realize I had at the time, but the passion is the same.
Sometimes unrealized dreams bring to light new dreams we didn’t realize existed.
If I knew a magic formula to realizing dreams in this life, I’d be a millionaire. But, the thing is, life is full of surprises…good and bad. If there is a dream you’ve been hoping to pursue, know that no one is going to do it for you. It’s probably not going to be handed to you on a silver platter.
Nothing worth pursuing is easy. But, it’s worth it. Take one step at a time.
What step are you taking today?