written by: Courtney Dane, Class of 2013 at Notre Dame Academy (Toledo, Ohio)
As we walked past the classrooms, beaming faces and tiny hands reached out to us. High pitched “hola’s” followed us everywhere we traveled. Every once in a while, petite hands snaked their way into our grasp or around our waists. We looked down to find shining little eyes staring up at us with curiosity and acceptance. Love poured from their stares, touch, and sweet little voices. We felt as if we were in a home away from home. These children and the adults that we had the great blessing of working with made us feel so welcome and comfortable. Their behavior fueled a deep connection and love that will stay with us forever.
For my classmates and me, this was our first experience in Central America. Many of our siblings had gone before us to Guatemala, and we were ready to start our adventures in Nicaragua. Even though we had heard their stories, nothing could have prepared us for the people. Everyday, we played more hand games, took more pictures, and participated in intense soccer games. The students milled around, always inviting us to play and talk with them as we constructed their kindergarten room and painted a mural. Even though most of us could not understand or communicate very well, they patiently conveyed their messages and sought to find out more about us. We were dumbfounded as they took us so willingly into their community. This unconditional acceptance fueled our attachment to them and allowed us to build relationships.
Through these experiences, we discovered the true meaning of living in solidarity. The ability to fall in love and stay in love nestles at its roots. It is the challenge of both parties to fall in love and develop a sense of unity and duty to one another. We do not truly understand the extent of God’s love or the love of others until we speak and interact with the poor. These people show us the strength of the human spirit and the inherent good present in all humans. They are endowed with God’s love. This contagious feeling has the ability to spread to all who come in contact with them. Our short week in Nicaragua showed us that there is a great need to keep extending our hands in service to those stricken by poverty. They are put in the worst circumstances, yet their strength and courage make their lives rich and plentiful. Through love, we are united to one another. We have a duty to change their circumstances, and they have the duty to transform our hearts. By giving ourselves up, we can spread this love, sense of duty, and sense of unity to one another.