Climb Every Mountain
In less than 24 hours, I'll be on a plane to Africa to fulfill a dream I've had since I first
saw Mt. Kilimanjaro in National Geographic when I was about 8 years old.
When I was in the Alps of Austria as a photographer a few years ago, some photographer friends and I kept playing Julie Andrews and attempting to sing that song as we drove through that area -- I'm sure that we'd all better keep our day jobs! That song has been in my head a lot lately as I've prepared for this adventure.
At that time, prior to becoming metallic from the waist down following many joint replacement surgeries, it never occurred to me that I would follow this dream. It's been a challenging few months as I prepared:
- Battles with the insurance company over my prescriptions (never realized it could be hard to arrange for meds for several months
- Fundraising to help pay the expenses for my volunteer job (everything from baking at least a billion pans of cinnamon rolls for offices)
- Going online with my store for my work
- Doing several art shows
- Even writing donation letters to my friends who not only helped but still love me)!!
The support from everyone has been incredible.
One friend offered to mow my lawn the entire time I'm gone. Another is repairing my kitchen ceiling. Friends produced and printed my brochures for my shows. Another extra-special friend held my hand and produced my new Web-site. I think we all tend to take friends, family, and even businesses we deal with frequently for granted. I KNOW I won't do so again. Even my bank pulled through at the last minute -- I asked for a donation early in my "campaign" -- they informed me that they could only donate if the money was to stay in the community -- but yesterday, in spite of policy, they gave me a generous check. I even received checks from people I don't know, but those who had heard "my story" from my friends -- INCREDBILY AWESOME!
I've also learned an incredible amount of things about myself and others in this long
process. (Yes, I've kept a journal all along -- not only of my triumphs, but also my fears and challenges). I've studied many hours about the culture, the country and the people. I DO have somewhat of an advantage in that I've been in this area before as a photographer. I spent a great deal of time last winter with a congregation in my town who is primarily from Tanzania and I've learned enough Swahili to get me started (well, I at least I can ask where the bathroom is -- you HAVE to establish priorities!!!)
I've endured some panic attacks when I wasn't sure this would all come to fruition -- but I survived, because ultimately, I KNEW that this was what I NEEDED to do and I really am not the Man in charge!
I received my work assignments recently and will be spending mornings working with
kids in a juvenile detention center -- at first I somewhat panicked, then remembered that I worked with this population for 10 years as a teacher (and LOVED IT). It doesn't matter what color their skin is, what language they speak, or what country they live in -- kids like these are usually quite bright, creative, need self-esteem, and, most importantly, need to find someone who believes in them. I will work in the afternoons helping start a business in making batik fabric for export with people in the community.
This coming Saturday, I will be close to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro -- actually ON my
65th birthday!!! Then I will move to my "house" and begin a few months of volunteer work, giving back to a country that has taught and given me so much.
I was asked recently if this was the last thing on my "List for Living." Heavens NO! The advantage of those lists is to add to and change or delete things as my goals and ideas change. After all, it is MY List for Living!!!
As many of my readers are very aware, "things" happen for a reason. Yesterday, I received an e-mail from a friend with an article about a teacher who made "blue ribbons" for her students with printing on them -- telling them how they had a positive impact on her life and the lives of others. This article had an impact on me -- I called in a favor from a local printer, and had name tags made (you know the type -- encased in plastic and hang around your neck). There is a picture of one of my favorite lion pix from Tanzania -- with a brightly printed saying: WHAT I AM -- DOES MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!
Take care of yourself -- and do something for someone else --