What Can One Do?
Friday. The last work day. Something that seemed so far away when I first arrived on this beautiful island of Jamaica but went by too quickly, now that the day is finally here. We woke up to the waves crashing against the rocks on the shore (which I will greatly miss), ate our breakfast of fresh fruit and toast (which, again, I will greatly miss) and loaded the bus to head to our second site, Pedro Plains Primary School, with 17 girls who I call my sisters (who I will miss the most). We finished priming most of the (very, very, very, long) cement fence yesterday, and our goal today was to finish putting on a third coat of primer so we could begin the final coat – the red clay paint.
The teamwork and enthusiasm to help one another has made every day at each work-site a meaningful experience – filled with hard work, lots of laughter and, of course, even more paint. We didn’t finish painting the entire fence with the final coat of red clay paint, but it was amazing to see what a difference a small paint job can make and all the progress that has been made. If you have been keeping up with this blog, you know that yesterday we learned the why we were serving in Jamaica (which I highly encourage you to read). Now I know painting a cement fence may not seem like the biggest deal in the world, but for schools like Pedro Plains Primary School it would be an unobtainable project to complete themselves, due to the current financial crisis and deteriorating infrastructure throughout the country. There are not enough words for me to write nor ways to express how grateful and humbling this experience has been, why it has been an honor to be able to paint that cement fence and what it means to learn what serving truly means: the work of the soul.
After a hard day’s work in the vibrant Jamaican sun, we returned to Taino Cove together to reflect on this past week and what we were most proud of throughout this experience. The ideas about “teamwork,” “hard work,” “service” and “learning more about myself” were discussed, as well as how we can go back to the states and apply that which we have learned from this Global Service Initiative. We talked not only about how to apply these lessons at our respective chapters across the nation but also how to be an active citizen on an international scale. The moment that stuck with me the most, as we were sitting around together still sweating, sticky and covered in paint with smiles across our faces, was when we were asked “What can one do?” We were asked to read the following passage: [from One, written by Dan Zadra and Kobi Yamada]
The forest was quiet – too quiet. From out of nowhere came the clatter of horses’ hooves, and then silence again. A few moments later a flame sprang from the dry leaves.
“Fire!” roared the bear. “Run for your lives,” cried the crow. The forest animals, great and small, all fled in panic toward the river. But one small bird remained on the far bank watching the forest burn. “What can we do?” he cried out. There was no answer. “But this is our home,” he cried again, “We must do something – it’s on fire!” Silence was the only answer.
At last, he swooped down from his perch, scooped up a bill-full of water and flew over to dump it on the fire. Time after time he flew from the river to the fire until his weary wings were singed and covered with ash. High above, the gods looked down at the chaos below, and they laughed.
“What in the world is that little bird doing?” asked one god. “He is trying to put out the fire with a bill -full of water! But why? I will find out.” And he the god went down to Earth to ask the bird.
Later, when the god returned to the skies, he was surrounded by the other gods. “Well? What is he doing?” they all asked at once. The god replied softly, “He told me, ‘I am but one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something.”
Tears welled up in the gods’ eyes and fell as gentle rain on the flames below, quenching the fire.
First of all, how awesome is that? Second, it’s amazing to see what a small group of college-aged women, who went from complete strangers to life-long friends, can accomplish in just one week. Just like the brave little bird, it may not seem like we can change the world or accomplish everything at once, especially when it seems as if the world may be against us, at times. But together we can make difference – no matter how small. One thing that I have learned and valued throughout this trip is that it truly only takes one person (or in this case, 17 Alpha Chi’s) who is courageous (and even at times, crazy) enough to take a leap of faith and make a difference – because something good will come out of it. I promise.