Choose the Joy
Choose the Joy
Field Note #224
Morgan Leonard is a previous volunteer and current intern of Wine To Water. It was on her first volunteer trip that her world was changed. This is her story.
So this story right here is one of my favorites. I'll give just a few background details to explain why everything led up to the massive life epiphany I had, and hopefully give you a little more context to my story as a whole:
Before my trip with Wine To Water, I was a junior Global Studies student in college, President of the W|W ASU club, and W|W International Programs intern. Despite my studies of the culture, religion and other practices that exist around the world, I had never experienced any other than my own.
Naturally, I was craving the opportunity to travel the world and to get a taste of what wanderlust was. I loved seeing my friend's Spring break pictures in Mexico and study abroad experiences in Europe. I was feeling it was my turn to step out of the US for the first time to go and see the sights! I'm a junior majoring in Global Studies for crying out loud, so when I got the chance to do a service trip in Nepal with Wine To Water, I was ecstatic for the adventures that were going to happen before me and for my club kiddos. I knew it would be rewarding, but I didn't know it'd be that rewarding.
Before I knew it, we were meeting with Nepal's W|W field team, digging rocks out of the mud pits of Raitole, and working side-by-side with the local community members. I have always been excited to meet new people, but I was truly in awe meeting others who lived their lives completely differently than mine, and watching how fearlessly they worked for one another. Although we did not speak the same language, we quickly learned how laughter was the one universal language we could all get involved in.
I think it's important to include that the Nepali people live within a social caste system, being that there are distinctive social classes operating from the lower to the higher. This was something completely new to me, as we do not necessarily use the same classification for separation in the US. After learning about this, I realized how empowering it was that we were all working on the same water project together. Coming from all races, backgrounds and pieces of the world, we were all standing in the same pit of mud, drinking the same water. All being human. I realized that at our core, we are all people from the same planet, all needing the same God-given elements to survive no matter who we think we are to society. I never realized that sharing a water bottle could spark such a thought. I had several other mini-epiphanies throughout the trip. Many being joyful, some bringing sadness. As for the bulk of it, I decided to choose the joy.
Throughout it all, I was constantly brought back to one major theme: and it was pure happiness. Although the people I spoke with had little to nothing in monetary value, they had everything in heart and character. Their means were far below what people back home would easily complain about, yet they still seemed so happy. At first this was confusing for me. Why would someone with so little still offer so many smiles? It took time for me to learn, but I began to recognize that it came down to pure simplicity. Sure, there is so much in life to mull over, critique, complain about, etc., but why not focus on what good there is instead? We could spend all of our time stressing over the things we don't have, or rather, enjoy the things we do. Just like our little service workbook suggested: choose the joy.
I really should add that I wasn't just seeing this from the people of Nepal, but every person I met seemed to carry this same philosophy in life. Something I believe the rest of the world ought to learn from.
On the last day, I realized I had gotten so many life lessons from this short two weeks; lessons I wanted to be sure I never forgot. One lesson in particular I wanted to be sure to remember, so naturally, I got a tattoo!
Despite my mom's many efforts to talk me out of it, my curiosity for adventure got the best of me and I went for it! Although I passed out - probably from not eating beforehand and already being dehydrated from walking - it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
It's been about a year since my experience in Nepal, and I still find myself brooding over the nitty-gritty events of life, but I snap out of it once I catch glance of my little water drop. Although it may just be ink, it keeps me grounded and reminds me of those lessons I learned in the beautiful country of Nepal.
I challenge you today to choose the joy and to never forget the positive side of life.
आनन्द छान्नुहोस् = Choose the Joy