As we made the long and winding climb up to the first community where we'd distribute shoes, dust from the primitive road swallowing our van whole, I found myself wondering - who can live up here? The further we climbed, the more I felt all alone in the world in a country that had already begun to feel like a world all to itself.
When our vans pulled into the school area, young kids began to swarm our van. It might be the closest I'll ever come to feeling like a rockstar arriving at the next tour stop.
At the time, I thought - these shoes mean a lot to these kids. And they did. But after 4 distributions, I came to realize what the "rockstars" arriving represented most was hope. To them our arrival said someone knows we're here, and they care enough to come spend time with us. And yes, they care enough to bring us new shoes.
That's who all these kids were, though. Willingness overflowed from them. They were full of fight and resilience. Nothing in them said feel sorry for me. Everything in them said we're proud to have you visit our home.
I was in a chair that was helping kids try on shoes. This little girl sat across from me. It was toward the end of the day, our shoe supplies were running low, and none of the shoes I was helping her try on fit.
Over the course of a few minutes, I'd watched this precious face turn from joyful anticipation to painfully anxious. I was beginning to feel the pressure of it all. We'd distributed enough shoes to start understanding just how much this opportunity meant to the kids. And even though it was misguided, I was beginning to own the disappointment I was afraid this little girl was about to feel.
Then one of my teammates handed me these cow boots. Now, as I turned around, my back to my little friend, and saw the boots being handed to me, I thought - this isn't going to go well. She
I'm not sure there is anything more humbling than to hold the feet or look deep in the eyes or be on the receiving end of a hug of someone who's come to expect so little in the world. It's a special kind of gratitude that's untainted by the belief you can have - maybe even deserve - everything you want. It's a gratitude that needs no words, and connects us in a spiritual way I believe we all ultimately long to be connected.