This post was originally published on November 6th, 2013 on Kevin’s blog.
There are moments in life that demand pause – just a moment’s breath. For me, this is one of those moments. Right now, I sit on a bench in the middle of “The Garden of Dreams” – a beautiful, colonial style park in the heart of Kathmandu, Nepal. As the sun sets on this mountainous country, the sky blooms a warm pink and a cool breeze whispers through the leaves of the green canopy above. The sound of traffic drowns under an oddly peaceful cacophony of crowing that must be composed of every bird in this over-crowded city. As I sit listening to the noise, I reflect on how I arrived here.
It was a year ago today that two of my best friends and I boarded a plane bound for Venezuela and embarked on the first leg of our journey as “Join the Lights”. The purpose of this twelve-month undertaking was simple: find twelve outstanding humanitarian organizations from twelve different countries and produce twelve films that share the story of each one. I’m not sure if this plan sounded as crazy then as it does to me now because when you’re on a mission to change the world an overwhelming sense of optimism is par for the course. I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Right?
As it turns out, a lot can go wrong out there on the road. Time-sensitive plans fall through. The power goes out. Irreplaceable equipment breaks. Customs agents threaten to take all of your stuff. Storms will rage. The only road will be closed. WiFi won’t work. Did I mention, the power will go out? You might even contract an endemic tropical disease. Worse than that, food that you order is never what you expect. Living in the developing world, especially out of a suitcase, keeps you on your toes and calls into question that old saying about “whatever doesn’t kill you…” because I’m pretty sure that some of this stuff just isn’t healthy. That said, many of the failed plans, unintended detours, and ‘things gone wrong’ turn out to be ‘what went right’ in retrospect.
Looking back at the last year from this park bench in Nepal, I realize that I’ve learned a lot. While I’ve only lost an ounce of naïveté, I’ve gained some perspective that just wasn’t available from the comfort of my Southern California home. I’ve seen some of the darker realities of the world – situations that just don’t seem like they can be fixed – as well as profound rays of hope through selfless acts of compassion. I’ve learned what ‘modest living’ means and how to appreciate a simple pleasure. I’ve repeatedly faced tests of patience, and just as many times I’ve failed. At times, I’ve felt helpless and momentarily glimpsed the struggle for survival that is so foreign to an American imagination. Suffice it to say, my expectations have been humbled by reality time and time again.
And, yet, as I sit here and think about the hardships of the last year – and the triumphs too – I find that I’m thankful. I’m thankful for those who have contributed to, prayed for, and encouraged me on this adventure. And while this year hasn’t always gone according to plan, I’m thankful for all of the wrong turns that have led me to new places and lessons learned.