My Trip to The Dominican Repubic
The Power of Service. You get what you give.
I grew up in an environment of givers. Being Lebanese/Palestinian raised in the Ivory Coast, it is very common in both cultures to welcome people into our homes as if it was theirs. It is just as common to overfeed everyone that walks into our home and if there are leftovers, we pack them and share them with a stranger. We were very well taken care of at home and at our friends' homes, even if it was the first time we were over. My friends parents would treat me the exact same way they treated their kids. Feed me the same, buy me the same gifts as their kids. My sisters and I just naturally began sharing without expecting anything in return.
The first time I experienced people being scared to give & share, I was confused and hurt. It was weird and uncomfortable and I really didn't know how to react to it. Instead of trying to understand them, their way of thinking of being, the culture differences and stay connected to what feels most peaceful for myself, I started acting from a place of fear and lack. I realized I had taken on some of these fears. I started worrying about not having enough. A bunch of unloving conversations started creeping into my mind. Conversations such as "why should I share when I don't have enough or if they don't share?" "I need money, I can't worry about others" and more. All kind of disempowering conversations crept up and disconnected me from people but mostly disconnected me from myself.
The truth is I felt hurt because I started having expectations of others showing up a certain way. I was giving to get something back in return. I was no longer giving from the heart.
An extraordinary man and guru, Tarun, said to me "Anytime you are depressed, unhappy, sad, feel disconnected or stuck, be of service. Do something for someone else and watch what happens."
I always connected to that and for me, it was always true; but I remember that time hearing it and thinking "what?! but I do so much already and I am stuck right now." I took the time to be with it and in that particular moment, I was "doing" things but not from my heart. I was doing them because I either wanted to look good, or I wanted something in return or I was too scared to say no; but it definitely wasn't from the heart.
I knew it was time to do something different. It was time to let go of my attachments and expectations.
So here I was stuck, I had very little money, no job and didn't really know what to do with myself. Along with a few other things I shared on my last blog, I decided to volunteer. I volunteered at the Covenant House, spending time with homeless youth, connecting with them, serving hot meals, providing them with warm clothes. These short moments I got to interact with them were meaningful, loving moments that took me out of my ego and all the "me, me, me" conversations. I also volunteered at Yyoga. I thought: I love yoga, I want to get back into it, I want to surround myself with the "yogee community" and I want to be of service. I volunteered 4 hours a week greeting people, cleaning the space and creating a safe, clean and beautiful environment for everyone that walked in and I loved it! I loved it because in those 4 hours, It wasn't about me. It was about everyone else. I loved putting smiles on people's faces every morning!
A few months later, I joined a fundraising team to raise money for a campaign called "Project Empowerment" to empower women in South America to build their own businesses and take care of themselves and their families. I was so excited! I was a bit nervous to ask people for money but I didn't let that stop me. I did it. I raised the money and I had a great time doing it. This someone was the founder of Change Heroes at the time and WeJourney now (http://wejourney.co/) - Taylor Conroy, amazing soul, who is still up to great things!
Change heroes reached out again with another campaign, this time partnering up with TECHO - check them out they do great work! http://www.techo.org/paises/us/ - We raised money to build homes for families in El Savador that live in the slums. And I would get to go to El Savador, meet the family in person and build the house myself! I was VERY enrolled! I LOVED the project! I was so excited for the project and so excited to have my friends contribute to this special home!
It was a beautiful, magical journey - Check out my next post for more details on this journey! A small team out of Vancouver raised enough money to build 20 homes in a small village. We all met at the airport and headed to El Salvador together. We spent 2 full days connecting with the families and building their homes. I barely spoke Spanish and the families didn't speak a word of English but somehow we connected every single day with many hugs and plenty of smiles! We shared so much love.
And, it gets better!
A month later, another amazing human being, Michelle Sutter, saw on social media all the work I was doing including my trip to El Savador, and reached out to me. Michelle is a giver, she loves people and it shows through her actions! She had just joined the Fathom team (https://www.fathom.org/what-is-impact-travel/) and gave me 2 free tickets to travel with Fathom as a "Pay it Forward" gift. I was beyond excited and grateful! I could not even believe it! Fathom was an amazing concept, another opportunity to travel with Purpose AND I get to take a friend!! In the end, 26 of my friends and I ended up embarking on the Fathom journey where we got to build cement floors for people's homes, plant trees in the forest, teach English to kids in school and so much more!
These trips allowed me to meet amazing people on the same page as me and we connected at a deeper level than before. No matter what had happened to each of us or what we were going through, we all wanted to put that aside and do something meaningful for someone else. In return, we got so much love, joy and inner peace; and we had so much fun!
Today I can honestly say that I am happy and fulfilled when I am in service to someone else as long as I don't lose myself when doing it. What I mean by that is, I don't give more than I can or have. In the last 15 years, I have been sharing my time, money, energy, resources; with friends, or complete strangers, and every single time I somehow got it back! People would always ask "how do you always get?" and my answer is always the same: Don't be afraid to give!
In that moment, I do something for someone else, I allow that person's heart to smile for a second, or maybe few days. In that moment, I forget about me, my problems, my complaints, and whatever else is clogging my mind. In that moment I operate from the heart and I put a smile on someone else's heart. In that moment I connect with another human being.
And when I forget, I use my community. You know what they say: "You are who you hang out with" and that is true! I am blessed to be surrounded with people practicing kindness and generosity consistently. Every time I am in their environment I am reminded of who I am and what matters to me - especially going back home to the Ivory Coast, where I am reminded of the kindness I experienced growing up.
Today I am very present that so many of my blessings comes from what I have been willing to share with others and I want to encourage you not to be afraid to give. Beautiful things always come out of sharing from the heart.
In the end I get love and connection. And nothing beats that!