I know this is disappointing, but I really don’t like to hike. It’s disappointing because I’m a Coloradan, born and bred. But even the beautiful Rocky Mountains could never inspire me to spend a Saturday sweating my way up a trail.
But even with my distaste for the activity, I went on a hike with my aunt a few weeks ago — jumping at the chance for some quality time with her.
At first the hike was exactly as we expected. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t impossible either. “Maybe this hiking thing isn’t as bad as I thought!” I considered with surprising optimism.
We talked as we hiked, catching up, telling stories, and getting lost in conversation.
But that became the problem exactly, we’d lost ourselves in the conversation.
All of a sudden we looked around and noticed the trail markers were nowhere to be found.
We decided to keep going. We figured we’d find the trail once we made it to the top. So we began to blaze a trail of our own, not knowing the obstacles that lay ahead.
Our makeshift trail was much harder than anything we’d encountered so far. It was steep, a series of slippery rock faces and small cliffs.
I led the way, climbing up the first of the small cliffs that were almost as tall as I was. I found a sturdy branch to hold onto, and then brought my foot up as high as I could to wedge it into the lowest crevice. With a place to push off of, and the branch as my anchor, I hoisted myself up. One step closer to the top.
But my aunt was still behind me. So holding onto the branch to keep from slipping, I turned back around.
“Put your foot there,” I instructed her, showing her what had worked for me. “Hold on here, and when you get close enough, I’ll grab your other hand to pull you up.”
Slowly but surely we made our way to the top. I’d go first and then turn around and help her up too.
We made it to the summit safe and sound (a total accomplishment for this non-hiker). And I proudly told the story (adding as much drama to the situation as I could get away with) to anyone who would listen.
When we’re navigating the terrain of our lives, we have two choices. We can either overcome an obstacle and continue on ahead, or we can stop, turn around, and help the person behind us.
And when we stop, when we turn around and share the tricks of the trade, or a kind word, or offer each other a hand, I truly believe that’s one of the kindest things we can do for one another.
It’s a perfect demonstration of the truth that we don’t have to navigate this life on our own.
Yesterday I told you about a village we visited here in Cambodia, it was a small village in the district of Phnom Sruoch. It was a heartbreaking day as the people we met are navigating some of the hardest terrain life has to offer. They have no income, no support, no idea where their next meal is going to come from, and no hope for the future.
But today was an entirely different day.
We spent the day in a community called Leuk Daek that World Vision has been serving for the last 15 years. This community used to be in the same situation as Phnom Srouch, but with the community, World Vision, and a whole host of donors pooling their time, their resources, and their love, the community has been utterly transformed.
The contrast of the two villages is shocking.
Phnom Sruoch lacks so much. They didn’t have enough food, or enough work, parents have to leave their kids to look for work elsewhere which leaves the kids alone. Kids drop out of school almost as soon as they’re enrolled to help the family make ends meet. There’s no healthcare, no education on how to stay safe, or well, or how to fill your body with clean water and nutritious food.
The greatest hope parents have for their kids is that they grow old enough to help support the family. There is no dreaming, no future, no hope.
The village we visited today was the polar opposite.
Not only has it been transformed, but we spent the day celebrating in a beautiful closing ceremony as World Vision has officially declared, “Our work here is done.”
For a community that used to lack so much, the life they are now living is so full. They have enough food, improved education, health training and a health clinic, and pride in their community for all they’ve been able to overcome together.
We asked a handful of kiddos what they want to be when they grow up. The most popular answers were “doctor” and “teacher.”
The community certainly has hope for their future.
And while all of this was enough to keep me in happy tears behind my sunglasses, my very favorite part of our time there was when we visited the kids club—an after-school gathering of kiddos where they get to play and learn together.
They were the cutest little things, and were led by a 24-year-old guy named Kollel.
“Why do you do this?” I asked him. “Why do you donate your time this way?”
“It’s because I looked up to my kids club leader when I was their age. He inspired me, and taught me, and made me better, and I want to do the same and be a role model for these children.”
I had goosebumps everywhere, which really says something in the oppressive Cambodian heat.
Our lives are a journey, and after we make it past a particularly rough stretch, we have two choices. We can either continue on, or we can turn around and help those a few paces behind.
This is what I hope we do. I hope we stop, turn back around, and help.
This is what World Vision is doing for these communities. Thousands of staff members all over the world are pouring their time, their energy, and their lives into turning back around and helping these communities up.
And best of all (if you can rank all of this greatness, which I’m pretty sure you can’t), they’re creating this change, this impact, by helping the community work together.
World Vision is leaving that community today. Their work there is over. But that’s okay because there are people like Kollel who will continue helping the people behind him and inspiring others to do the same.
I can’t wait for what World Vision is going to do next here in Cambodia. I can’t wait to see Phnom Sruoch transformed the way Leuk Daek was.
If you’d like to be a part of what they’re doing, you can sign up to be a child sponsor right here. I know I’m going to. 🙂
Photos via the lovely Laura Reinhardt/World Vision