Together or apart?
Enough or not enough?
Good or bad?
Include or exclude?
Community or disunity?
Grateful or selfish?
Respect or indifference?
Lifting up or putting down?
Faith or fear?
Reverence or disregard?
Open or closed?
Bridge or wall?
Mine or ours?
Outward or inward?
Beauty or ugliness?
Attention or neglect?
Respectful or rude?
Kind or harsh?
Respect or indifference?
Understanding or ignorance?
Compassion or cruelty?
From Saturday, February 17 – Saturday, February 24, I was in Nicaragua with a group of 45 other people. We lived and worked in two different communities and helped to build homes for four families. This morning, several of us shared our reflections about the trip. Here is what I wrote.
In addition to the cement and the cement blocks.
And the sand and the gravel.
And the outhouses and the bucket showers.
Each evening we gathered for a reflection or program.
Dinner with the masons and their families.
Program with the scholarship students.
A conversation within our community groups about how we were doing and what we were experiencing and learning.
Towards the end of our week in Las Conchitas something was said which caused me to remember an experience I had in 2001. That year was the first time a group from Bedford Presbyterian lived and worked in Las Conchitas. We built a church that year. And in the neighboring community of Pilas Orientales we built two homes.
One day after work and before dinner, I walked through the community of Las Conchitas with Mark Rollins who was one of the adults on the trip and also on the Session/Governing Board of the church. He held the position Dave Keeffe holds today. As we walked down the pathways off the main street and between the houses he shared with me that several people had approached him asking why we were spending time and money doing trips like this. He said one of the people had said to him,
“Who does Alcorn think he is? Is he just a do-gooder?” My immediate response was, “What am I supposed to be? A do-badder.”
As I shared that story with our group I ended by encouraging them to look around and to see what was there and who was there and what was needed. And, to do good.
I would say the same thing to you.
Youth and adults from BPC have been going on trips with Bridges to Community since 1996. Each year at least one of the trip participants (and often more than one) says to me at the end of the trip, “This week has changed my life.” I understand what they mean. My experiences building homes and churches and community centers in Nicaragua and living with and working with the Nicaraguan people has changed my life as well. I see the world differently today than before my first trip. I see my life differently today since our trip a couple weeks ago. While I learn something new about myself each year, there is one constant. And that is I am humbled by the gratitude and grace and openness of the families with whom we work to build a home. And, I come home doing my best to figure out how to nurture that same depth of gratitude and grace and openness in my own life. Right here. Right now.
And, if you are interested, here is a video about our trip.
January 1, 2018.
Driving home on Saturday night on the New Jersey Turnpike, with my wife driving, I was scrolling though headlines to get caught up on the news and to pass the time. (Or, to pass the time and get caught up on the news.) A headline about New Years resolutions caught my attention so I clicked through to see what was included in their top 10 list for 2018.
It was about what you would expect.
Spend more time with family and friends.
Get more organized.
What most caught my attention was not the resolutions on the list, but how individually focused they all were. They were all about me. But what about “us” I wondered. None of us live in a vacuum so why don’t any of our resolutions focus on what is needed to make us better whether you define us as family or community or country or world.
So here is my suggestion for 2018.
Pick one thing which you care about which, if changes were made, would make your family stronger, your community healthier, our country better, our world safer.
Then decide what one thing you can do to address that need or concern or hope.
And focus on that.
Write it down.
Tape it to your bathroom mirror.
Put it on your refrigerator.
Stick a post it note by your front door.
Put it someplace where you will see it each day.
And, then see what happens.