Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Glimpse Into Where My Heart Resides

I apologize to those of you who have heard some of these stories before.

A few weeks before our 16th birthday Dad came home with a video.
(I say our because in case you didn't know, I'm a triplet.)
My brother, sister, and I sat down with Dad and our uncle to watch the video.
The video told the story of a group of people who had traveled to Mexico to do humanitarian work.
The video documented the week this group spent working alongside a tribe of native Indians from Mexico.
Some of the group members were interviewed and asked this question:
"Who benefited the most from this experience?  You or the villagers?"
Every single person answered the same way, "I benefited the most."
When the video was over Dad looked at us and said, "This is what you are getting for your birthday.
A trip to Mexico to do humanitarian work."

That week,  spent on the side of an extinct volcano, working with those people, changed me.
It wasn't a temporary change.  It was forever.
Dad and I went back the next year, to the same village, and spent another week plowing fields and teaching the people how to plant potatoes.

And then Dad spent the next 10 or so years, traveling with groups to Mexico...giving them the same experience I had had.
And when each of my siblings turned 16, Dad took them with him.
I lived my life:  I graduated from high school, I went to college, I went to NYC as a missionary for my church, I went back to college, I studied Spanish...and all the while I had thoughts of Mexico in my mind.
I had such a desire to go back.
I had such a need to go back.
One night I was talking to Dad and I said, "Dad, we are going to Mexico after Christmas.  And I need you to help me pay for it."
Amazingly, he agreed.

That trip inspired a change in the plan I had laid out for my life.
Instead of going to graduate school I moved to Mexico and spent three months living with a family and helping with humanitarian efforts.

I'm not going to lie.
It was a hard three months.
I was sick most of the time I was there, and speaking Spanish 24 hours a day gave me constant headaches.
But I wouldn't have changed that time in my life for anything.

For the next several years I went back to Mexico at least once a year.
Every time I went it was with the same humanitarian organization.
I took groups of people from the United States to different villages and in each village we did a different project.

After having gone to Mexico 9 or 10 times I had the opportunity to take groups to Guatemala twice.
The scenery was entirely different, and the people spoke a dialect I couldn't understand.
But the experience was the same: life-changing.

These experiences, the people I've met along the way, the opportunities I've had...
They've made me the person I am today.
It was in Mexico that I fell in love for the first time.
It was in Mexico that I fell in love for the second time.
It was in Mexico that I got my heart broken.
It was in Mexico that I broke someones heart.
It was in Mexico that I learned how tough I really was.
It was in Guatemala where I met the person who would hurt me the most in my life.
But it was that same person who prepared me for Jason.
It was in Guatemala where I made the most amazing friendships ever, and then lost those same friends in a horrible plane crash.
And it was in both countries that I learned to love...and to give my whole heart...to people I may never see again in this life.

It's been two years since my last trip out of the country.
It's been two years since things with the humanitarian organization changed, and my opportunities for service within that organization were no longer available.
I mourned the lost opportunity.
And I've missed my family ... the one in Mexico.

This morning I booked plane tickets for Jason and I to go to Mexico in February.
Plane tickets that will take me back to my home away from home.
We won't be going with the purpose of doing humanitarian work.
Not this time.
But if things work out, we will go to the villages where I've spent so much time, and Jason will be able to see the place that holds a part of my heart.
And for now, that's all I can ask for.


Kristin @ Yellow Bliss Road said...

You blow my mind. This is so beautifully written, I have chills. you have an amazing heart, Noelle.

~J~ said...

You are such an inspiration. I was so moved when I read this. Thank you for sharing your beautiful life changing story with all of us.

Nikki said...

Wow. What an amazing gift your dad gave you. And what an amazing legacy it became! You are incredible Noelle. I'm so inspired.

Cheeseboy said...

This is my favorite post of yours of all time. I had no idea you did these things in Mexico and Guatamala (sp?). I kinda feel a little honored to be your blog friend.

(BTW, my mission was to Pennsylvania. Not exactly third world.)

Venassa said...

You are amazing.
I am sad the organization has changed, but happy that you get to go back to a place you love so much. It must mean a lot to you to get to share it with Jason.

Anonymous said...

I read this and realized for the 100th time how different our lives have been. I LOVE your pictures- you know that! I love that you can talk about the past so wisely. I still tear old memories into the tiniest of pieces just so they won't haunt me. I'm learning that that needs to change though.

This post made my breathing labored. You, Noelle, it's really amazing what you've made out of yourself! I hope to be able to say the same about myself someday... long, long, lonnnng way to go.

I'm so VERY happy about your Mexico trip getting planned! Jason had better take you around carefully though! I know he will!

Dazee Dreamer said...

you are such a beautiful soul. I know you have touched the lives of all you have met in ways that you will never know.

I'm excited that you will get to take Jason to the place that you love.

Heather said...

The whole story is amazing.
I am so glad for you that you are getting to go back. I hope you have a great experience.

Kristie said...

Viva Mexico! OK, I don't know if I said that correctly, but you get it right?

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

The more I learn about you and your family, the more I am awestruck.
How exciting that you'll be taking Jason there.

Akkila Vibha said...

Dearest Noelle,
It is this girl , I fell in love with . This girl in you who is incredibly child like yet mature. I will tell you a secret. All my life I longed for siblings. Never had any.
I look at what u post some times and I feel , oh god! I wish I were born as her sister. Well things can't be changed now isn't it. When I become rich enough to visit US , I will meet this girl , whom I wanted to have as a sister. A girl with kind and beautiful heart.

Anonymous said...

Love love love this post, Noelle. I hope you guys have a great visit. What a great gift your Dad gave you, too. wow.

Amy said...

It's a beautiful thing!

Joann Mannix said...

You make me want to be better in every way.

This was beautiful. How sad and lovely and just everything. Mexico shaped you. And Mexico did a fine job, indeed. I'm sorry for the loss of your friends. I'm glad you're going back. May your time there be as blessed and enriching as your memories.

wjmom said...

Tears of joy and tears of sorrow for you, my cherished friend. Have a safe, beautiful, amazing trip with your best friend ever!

Anonymous said...

I have always talked about wanting to go on a mission trip to a third world country.

That's all I've ever done. Talked about it.

You inspire me to actually take the leap.

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful part of your life.

jayayceeblog said...

That is amazing. Everyone should be fortunate enough to get a gift like your Dad gave you kids. Wonderful pictures and you look stunning in every one of them! Thanks for sharing and the reminder to keep looking for humanitarian things to help others!