These villages had very little. They cooked outside, most "rooms" in the homes were separated by curtains, and the fact that we were there to bring sanitation facilities to the village says a lot.
Our group was split up into smaller groups to work on several different outhouse-type facilities. I was placed in a group with a boy named Connor. As Connor and I, along with several men from the village, worked together digging ditches, carrying heavy wheelbarrows full of sand, building framework, and pouring cement; we had a wonderful time joking and and getting to know each other. I think the best way to get to know someone, is to serve with them.
|Some of the group we worked with. On the left is my "brother" Kaju, bottom middle is Sparrow, on the right is my "brother" Romeo and in the middle is Toma|
One afternoon, Connor had borrowed Toma's hammer to nail some boards together. The hammer must have been really weak or Connor was just incredibly strong, because he snapped the handle right off. Toma prided himself in the carpentry work he could do. He once showed us his make-shift "porch" on his home and you could see that it was something very important to him. I think Connor was afraid to tell Toma what had happened to his hammer, but he was honest and revealed the damage to Toma saying "I'm soooo so sorry, you can have mine. Or I'll get you a new one. I'm soo sorry!" How could he have broken one of the only possessions this humble villager had?
Toma smiled at Connor with that twinkle in his eye that shows when someone holds years of wisdom and said "This?" Referring to the hammer, "This is nothing. Life is something. Break a finger, it hurts. Because it is life. I will miss you when you leave. It is in the heart- a part of life. But this? This is nothing. Hammer is nothing. Only life is something."
My priorities, my opinion on possessions, and my whole perspective changed in that moment.
Shortly after that I would have my camera stolen. With all of my amazing photos of the ocean, of Indian fire-walking ceremonies, of the beautiful little village children... still in the camera. At first I was devastated. I'm a photographer on the side and I took some pride in a great number of the pictures I had captured on that nice little Cannon point-and-shoot. I did everything I could to get it back, but I think I knew it was a lost cause all along. I continued to stew over it though until, on a boat ride through the muggy river waters in Fiji, I realized something. I realized that I could get pictures from everyone else in my group... I still had a disposable camera left....I still wrote in my journal every night about the experiences I had each day... I would always have those memories... and really... this? This was nothing. Only life is something.