Exactly one year ago, my family and I arrived back from five months of adventure and service in orphanages around the world. My life was wrecked. I could never be normal again.
I would never see the world the same way as my peers. I can’t walk into a grocery store without feeling slightly sick, a little voice in my head whispering, “How can we have a whole aisle of different types, styles, and colors of paper plates while they struggle to put a meager helping on their plate three times a day?” I can never buy a cute top without a pang of guilt and sadness, knowing they could pay school fees and make a better life with the dollar bills in my hand. Though I fall into the trap on long days, I can no longer bear to complain about stress at school while their entire future rests on one exam score. Though my parents can drive me crazy sometimes, I can never take their love and support for granted because they would give anything to have a mom or dad.
But who are “they,” you might be wondering. They are my family, the little barefoot kids and exuberant youth from rural villages in India, Kenya, Uganda, and Honduras who welcomed me into their lives…and eventually into their hearts. This is a burden I hope to always carry. I want to remember their struggle to remind me to live simply and give abundantly, so that they can simply live. I’ve learned that love crosses every culture, custom, distance, and language barrier, and that is the greatest gift of all.
This year has been marked with finding a new normal, one that fits what I care about most. I will not pretend that this is easy. Finding a balance between living life in the now, and remembering hundreds of precious kids is a juggling act, always fearing normalcy will seep in and reduce our adventures to a fragment of a memory. Some days I want to escape my busy life and be transported back to simpler moments dancing in my sarwal with the girls in India, worshiping to the African drums at camp in Uganda, or splashing in the river with my Honduran amigos. Some days I miss my cross cultural family so much it hurts, they truly filled up my life with abundant joy.
But most of the time I am cloaked in gratitude, still in awe that we uprooted our lives at all. I ogle at the ways God has been paving the way for our family to dream radically. There is no doubt in my mind that God used our experiences to shape my heart and fill me with new compassion. He has taught me that contentment is not measured in the quantity of material things we can acquire, but rather, it rests on living with reckless whimsy and dependence on Him. It blooms through moments of utmost simplicity and generous friendships.
Though this year has been filled with both joys and pains, doubts and hopes, I’d never have it any other way. I’d like to think that my life has been wrecked for the better.