Meanwhile in Calcutta…

The not so big winner

The not, so big winner.

I have played the lotto twice in my life. Just twice, and both times my hopes and dreams of swimming in a pool of gold coins have been dashed. If you are from United States you know that last night there was a lotto drawing that amounted to a total of $640 million dollars. All I have to say about that is Da-Dang!

After buying the lotto ticket on Thursday evening I began to plot the spending of my winnings. It was a fun thing to do, to dream, to envision.

All the while I was very suspicious that I would not win.  And then last night my suspicions came true. I checked my numbers and found just like a majority of the players I was not a winner. I would not swim in the pool of gold or experience my million dollar dreams come true this time around. Ah well!

As I perused the Facebook updates this morning I found that my friends were also coming to this same realization. Here is an example of the reactions:

“May not have won the lotto but I am still happy to be here with my husband and daughter.. =)”

“…BOOOO a measly few bucks. I had all my plans ready to be put in motion too. Buzz kill….lol”

Meanwhile in Calcutta, India someone once hit the jackpot but it was not the super lotto…

This week a Pastor told me a story about a Christian missionary who changed the lives of millions with a dream.  His name was Mark Buntain and 50 years ago his mission was to help the people of Calcutta, India. If you know anything about Calcutta, you know that there are nearly 9 million people living in something like a 9 mile radius. People are literally walking over each other and many suffer from extreme poverty with no hope of getting out.

Nearly 50 years ago there was a man who would sit next to the mission. Every day he would beg dressed in rags of old clothing. Everyday Mark Buntain would give him a few coins. Not a lot, but it was consistent. One day the man told Mr. Buntain that his mother was deathly ill. Mr. Buntain asked him to take him directly to the dying mother. They rode the train many hours and arrived at the house where Mark Buntain prayed and gave support to the family.

The man who sat begging day in and day out would one day become the lead Pastor of the current mission that Mark Buntain established. The ex-begger now helps others in so many ways. He has managed over 800 churches and a college.

I wanted to tell you this story, for a few reasons. I wanted to tell you that Mark Buntain was the jackpot for that man. What if you were the jackpot for someone else.  What if you used your dreams to make a life changing difference for someone else.

I am not trying to tell you to go and pick up every other homeless person trying to make them your prodigy. But what I am trying to say is don’t rule out your worth just because you’re not a millionaire. Mark Buntain was no millionaire even 50 years ago and yet he had the ability to foster a life changing experience. Know your worth in this world.

Meanwhile in Inner City America…

Inner City kids are sometimes thought of as rowdy and high risk. This week I met a group of inner city kids, from my neighborhood. They are out of the ordinary in regards to those preconceptions, and one thing that I can attest to is that they are about to go on the adventure of their life and along the way they will become so much wiser because of it.

Meanwhile in the inner city, students are getting ready to become humanitarians.

Students getting the opportunity to come on a humanitarian trip. Photo Cred. StudentReach 2011

As they stood in line at the notary office with their anxious parents, they eagerly held their documents and asked questions like; “Who else is coming” and “How long does it take to get there”. These students are raising funds to physically go and help the extremely poor in Mexico. They are not rich kids or posh. They are simply high school students.

One girl was concerned about not having any friends coming on the trip. We reassured her that by the end of the week the people who are now her peers, will become her lifelong best friends. The effect on friendship is similar to that of the summer camp effect. When you are living and working so closely with peers and experiencing the most amazing moments together, friendships bloom naturally.  I have helped to take many students on these trips and have found that they are the ones, out of all the people who go on the trips, who gain the most.

Relaxing after a hard day of work. Photo Cred. StudentReach 2011

These students will be building a home for very poor families in Mexico. The families work extremely hard as field hands, providing food for the local region and California. The wages unfortunately are meager, adding up to just a few dollars per week. Often times the homes that the families are living in before the teams get there, are made of discarded garage doors, cardboard, and donated tarps. The average size of a home/shelter that I have seen has the dimensions of a 10×10 shed. The room is usually filled with bedding and basic necessities like a lamp if electricity is available, which most times it is not. We once ran into a situation where 8 people from one family were cramming themselves into the makeshift structure to get out of the howling winds and dust.

Hammering the first of many nails Photo Cred. Studentreach 2011 Team Photos

By the end of the week I have seen students breakdown in tears as they realize that their life back home is so much easier than the lives of the people that they just built a home for. With my own eyes I have witnessed  teenagers give away all their personal clothes that they have brought to wear on the trip, in an effort to give just a little more. I have even seen international relationships continue on after the trip. The reuniting of these friendships moves forward throughout the years as a student go back to help in more ways.

As these students prepare to give their spring break  to a cause greater than they know, I am excited and eager to see the wisdom that they will gain. I am excited to find out how they will inspire their peers at school to come along the next time around. I really hope that they become empowered to make a difference in their own community. I want them to inspire their community to be better with the skills that they will learn on this trip.

The inner city may suffer from low-income, gangs and drugs. But one thing that it is not lacking is the potential that the students I met today are exuding.

These students will be getting a blog entry dedicated to the adventures and work that they will do on their upcoming trip.

The Humanitarian Experience: Not Necessarily the “Hot Stuff”

 Miguel knows best. Miguel is the best! In 2009, I was a part of my first house build for a poverty-stricken Mexican family who resided in Baja California, Mexico. I was not the first one to do this in this area nor will I be the last. As we drove up to the neighborhood where we were building, you could see all the homes that had been built by the charity that we were working with. They were all similar except for one thing. The homes all had the brightest colored exteriors that I have ever seen.  From home depot orange to pepto bismol pink the dirt roads and dismal yards faded into the dusty background of Mexico. The sight of what we were going to build by the end of the week excited me and was a great encouragement to get to work.

I grew up with a father who made a living in construction, which meant that we never called a handy man or paid someone to fix something. My dad was always encouraging my brother and I to help him work around the house, willing or unwilling we helped. Mostly unwilling. Because of this I am no stranger to the hammer or the shovel (just to clarify my father was on this trip). As we began to frame the house and build the walls we all took a hammer and began to work our little hearts out.

Miguel ready to show us how to work, photo cred. TDevoll (2009)

 As I happily swung my hammer and laughed with my comrades, I was thinking I was the “Hot Stuff”. I noticed that there was a little pair of eyes staring at me the whole time. I kindly smiled at the child who was around 8 years old. He looked at my dad who was working near me and said something in rapid Spanish.

Although I am of Mexican decent I can only speak high school Spanish, 3rdgeneration Americanism often leads to this. My father on the other hand spoke Spanish as his first language. I looked at my dad who now was laughing and saying something back.

“…trabaja…” oh I know that word it means, “work!” In my head I thought, “Hehe, he thinks I am good at working, and since I am a girl it must be even more impressive.”

“What did he say to you?” I asked my father. He laughed and shook his head again. “What!?!” I continued to ask.

Next thing I know the hammer that was in my hand was being pulled and within moments the child was slamming the nails into the 2×4 at an extremely fast and accurate rate. He finished my line of nails and handed me the hammer. Apparently he was not commenting on my fine skills instead he was pointing out how I handled a hammer like a 7-year-old.

Instead of just showing me up and dissing my handy work, he began to show me the best practice for hammering a nail. He went slow and then handed me the hammer to me to try. Of course the nail bent. He took the hammer, pulled out the ruined nail and set me up for the next try. I began to practice with him and once he thought my work was adequate he moved on to the next poor aid worker who thought they were the hottest thing around.

Miguel is his name and at 8 years old he humbled me. That week I saw him fix a broken bike and take care of his little brother. I saw him play baseball and help paint his neighbor’s house pepto bismol pink. Miguel is the handy man of the neighborhood. Miguel knows best when it comes to the technique of hammering a nail. Miguel is simply the best.

Miguel 2009 photo cred. TDevoll