This Friday the YA Storytellers are all telling tales that inspire.
Today I’m typing in my daughter’s apartment in Boulder, CO. I gain my inspiration on my travels. Wonder is the feeling that feeds my soul. Childlike wonder. The kind I only truly experience when I’ve lost myself in another world. When the ordinary fades away. Beauty sometimes makes this possible. Natural beauty inspires but what I’d like to share with you today is a story about the beauty of courage and strength against all odds. These are the gifts that Sonam Lama (left) and Sangmo Chodan (right) gave to me.
Sangmo and Sonam are best friends. I met the girls when I volunteered as a relief worker in Boudha, Nepal. The clinic for Global Dental Relief was set up at their school, Shree Mangal Dvip. Sonam and Sangmo are students at the school and volunteered their time to help at the clinic. Sangmo, Sonam and I worked closely together organizing the kids for their dental work, at times playing with the kids, at times comforting them, giving fluoride treatments, holding the kids hands, laughing, playing string games, teaching the kids how to brush their teeth, giving them toothbrushes and stickers. As I watched and worked with Sangmo I appreciated her work ethic, her sense of humor and maturity. I thought she was sixteen years old. It was near the end of the week that I discovered she was only thirteen.
To the beats of drums and chants of a nearby puja, I entered the newly set up clinic at the Shrew Mangal Dvip school along with all the other Dental Global Relief volunteers from all over the world. Shirley, the principal, dropped in to say hello and told us that the children at her boarding school are “yakland” kids–children who live at an elevation of 10,000 feet or above. She said that many of the children walked up to a week in order to take a day-long drive to attend the school. As the journey was long and dangerous, it would be years before the children would see their families again, those lucky enough to still have families. Sangmo is one of these lucky children. Many of her classmates were orphaned as a result of the ten-year civil war that ended in 2006. The principal blushed as she shared that she’d love to get an email from Richard Gere because she admired his charity work so much. Shirley has a beautiful spirit. During our orientation, Shirley said that the children were experts at Buddha’s main teaching—turning problems into happiness.
One day, while I worked with Sangmo I asked if she stayed in touch with her family by writing them letters. She said that she did but that her mother and father couldn’t read or write. So, when they receive her letter they take a one-day hike to another village where someone there would read her letter to them. Then, her parents would take another one-day hike to another village to find someone to write a reply.
This struck me deeply. Sangmo and Sonam have very little materialistically. But they are among the happiest most polite, hard working teenagers I’ve ever met. Their light comes from within. And as children and teenagers often do, they taught me more about life and love than I could have ever taught them. They truly inspired me by rekindling a light that had died inside of me.
Wouldn’t it be fun for Shirley to get an inspiring note from Richard Gere? If you know him or know someone who knows him, or can help in any way, it would be my joy to help give back to her in this very small way. Here’s the address to send a note to Shirley: himalayanchildren@ yahoo.co.uk. If you like, you can “like” the school on Facebook here to find out more about the kids and the school.
Some of the joy of travel is when I return home and share the fun and stories with my friends and family.
On this trip though, it occurred to me that I really didn’t have a home to come back to. Not the kind of home that I had always had. This thought kept me traveling for much longer that I had planned and would take me around the world. It was in the space of time when I left the plan behind that I realized home is no longer a place, but resides in my heart. And the heart, while fragile, has an infinite capacity for love.
Some trips shape me. Some trips change me. Some trips transform me. Some trips have affected my family and friends. And sometimes, the stories I tell and the gifts I give have reached beyond those I know and love. Far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
This is the story of the bracelet.
Wherever I was, whether in the countryside on the outskirts of Melbourne, trekking the Himalayas, in the jungles of Java or on the shores of the Bali Sea, I had my eye out for little treasures. Unique gifts I could bring back for friends and family. As I was backpacking through the world, portability was key.
In Kalibaru on the island of Java I found and purchased a handful of beautiful handmade bracelets. For the next sixty days they would travel with me all over the world. When I returned to the U.S. I gave one to my very good friend. She loved the bracelet so much she never took it off. It stayed on her wrist as she journeyed to Wales and then to Africa.
And it found its way to a little village in northern Tanzania where a tribe of Maasai lived. The women of the village made bracelets to help support their families. The Maasai women surrounded my friend when they saw her bracelet. The idea of using different-sized beads on the same bracelet never occurred to them. The type of beads captivated them. The way the bracelet fastened was a curiosity. This gave the Maasai women lots of ideas about bracelets and their future designs. My friend bought one of their bracelets and when she returned home, she gave the bracelet to me.
And through my friend and the bracelet and the Maasi women, my home just got a little bit bigger.
So often in life we think that the little things we do don’t matter. We discount our influence or even our own significance, at times. But the biggest things we do can be the smallest. A smile. A joke. A well-timed call. A small gift. A simple treasure. The little things your heart whispers can bring so much joy to the world.
I’m excited to giveaway a signed paperback to a random Goodreads commenter in the YA Storytellers Book Club Group discussion of Shadow Slayer. Click here to participate….
Here’s the “fireworks” excerpt from Shadow Slayer:
He finally slows to a stop at the last deserted bonfire. The couples gathered here when we first arrived are inside the mansion, dancing no doubt. Drew turns toward me, grabbing both of my hands and says. “You are the Shadow Slayer.” I’m not sure if it’s his torment or desperation or the fact he believes this shadow stuff with all his heart that sends shivers up my spine in the warmth of the bonfire. I swallow hard. “What’s a Shadow Slayer?”
“You’re the only human who can stop the onslaught, who can turn the tide.” Drew tilts his head as if he doesn’t know what to say next. “It’s sporadic when you’re new. Visions come fast. Some are to be trusted. It’s part of the initiation.” I miss his smile, the one he flashed in the cafeteria when our eyes first met. By the glow of the bonfire in the light of the almost full moon, Drew’s so much more than a ten, his hot factor. This simple thing, being caught in his golden gaze in the heat of the bonfire, makes me realize I’m about to believe anything he says.Where will your thoughts take you when fireworks light up the night sky this weekend?
For many years I haven’t been able to see fireworks on the 4th of July. So many years, in fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw fireworks. Fire danger in California played a part. Financially strapped cities too poor to put on shows was a factor. Over the past three years, these themes of danger and lack would unfortunately become forces with which I’d have to contend on a much deeper, personal level.
Tonight I thank the universe that I’ll see fireworks again. Seeing them with those I love is pure magic. Thanks for sharing some of your holiday weekend with me here at Laurasmagicday.
The YA Storytellers are all posting “fireworks” excerpts – so hot they explode! Reading excerpts from my fellow society authors – Bryna Butler, Kasi Blake, Heather Hildenbrand, Patti Larsen, Quinn Loftis, Liz Long, Melissa Pearl, L.M. Preston, Stacey Rourke, Christy Sloat and Suzy Turner is a fun way to beat the heat this holiday weekend. For more “fireworks” excerpts click here!
Here’s a track from the soundtrack of my trip.
This song was playing at an open air bar/dance club just a few meters away. I was sitting on the beach in front of a bonfire on Gili Air with a group of new friends I’d made there. We were all talking about our lives. How they’d all met, where we might all be going. Laughing a lot. I traveled alone, but found I never was alone. It was the trip’s great gift, the company and wisdom of new friends. They were from Sweden, a guy and four girls. The guy and his girlfriend were very sweet and invited me to have dinner with them earlier that night. What struck me about him was how gentlemanly he was, making sure I had a glass of wine and that I knew everyone. Later that night I would discover the heartache he’d suffered. The gal I spoke with most of the night is an artist-yogi. A few Spanish gals and I would dance until morning.
My guru on Bali said in life three things are certain: Everyone will die, everyone will grow older, everyone will lose all that they have.
I hope to dance barefoot on the beach. Often.