Butterfly Effect Contest Winner
To coincide with the release of The Butterfly Effect movie, we are proud to announce the winner of the Butterfly Effect Contest, Grenardo L Avellino! The contest challenged Facebook fans of Simple Truths to submit their own "Butterfly Effect" stories. Not familiar with the concept? Click on the movie in the sidebar to learn more. Grenardo (or Greg for short) will receive a copy of The Butterfly Effect signed by Andy Andrews, thank you Greg!
Last year, my daughter Rose participated in a church mission trip to the Dominican Republic. When she arrived back home, we could see a transformation that we had trouble understanding. As a family, we took time to digest her experiences and we tried to understand what she felt short-term and long-term.
She showed us pictures and told us about the orphans and the lives they lived. She made friends with kids from other high schools and as a dad, I thought it was pretty neat to see her spread her wings socially.
But there was something more that she received from the trip that I would not be able to understand myself until she asked me to consider being a chaperone for this year's trip. As you know, when your teenager asks you to chaperone – you don't turn down the opportunity.
I was one of 8 chaperones, and the only male chaperone. It was a challenge living with 7 ladies, but I grew to appreciate them and together we learned each others' strengths. Collectively, we motivated and led 37 kids from 9 different high schools of all socio-economic backgrounds and family structures.
We taught English camp at the disco, which was nothing more than a structure with a small stage, a roof and no walls. Every day when we arrived, we would sweep off the urine and defecation from the goats that wandered aimlessly so the kids would not run through it and we wouldn't have to sit in it as we taught. Often I observed the older kids would sneak over and read the books we brought with us. There was a thirst for knowledge. You see, if they are able to speak English, then they can possibly thrive in the tourism business and be more productive citizens.
As a kid, every Sunday my father would drive our family through Harlem in NYC on the way to 5th Avenue Presbyterian Church. My father said weekly – "Take a good look around." For 45 years, I thought that was some of the worst poverty I had ever seen. 45 years of thinking changed July 7th when we began our mission trip and visited the Mustard Seed Orphanage. The orphanage itself was loving and cared for children with disabilities. The community playground outside the Mustard Seed had swing seats that were split in half. I had with me a roll of sport tape, and I taped both seats so the kids could swing again. To see the happiness of the little kids when they were able to swing again was satisfying and heartwarming.
We developed relationships with the neighborhood of Monte Cristi. On a very hot Sunday some of our kids played volleyball in the street. People sat on the sidewalks in communal groups and sprayed water all over themselves and others to cool down. They even felt comfortable enough to spray and soak some of us to cool off! There was a strong sense of community. There was laughter and a lesson for all – to be thankful for what we have and not for what we think we need. Everywhere we went people greeted us by saying "Hola!" We felt very welcomed.
We began each day with an activity that was either meditation, prayer, a significant reading, or motivational quotations. We served during the day, and at night we came together for reflection that was affectionately called "group therapy."
On July 13th, we visited the marketplace in DaJabon where twice a week the border between Haiti and the DR is opened, allowing the Haitians to come to the marketplace and buy goods. To see despair and humans fighting for survival, making multiple trips for goods, made us appreciate what we have.
This mission trip afforded me the time to develop a deeper understanding of my relationship with my daughter, my family, God, and others. I was fortunate to see and experience my daughter one-on-one as her father and as a chaperone. I strongly urge you to participate in the future with your own child together on a mission trip.
In closing, what truly does matter most in our lives? It is not the nice car, the nice house, and the ability to buy whatever we want and do not necessarily need. To see the happiness and warmth of the Dominicans when some have nothing or little has made me examine my own beliefs and who I am. We all need to give back and develop more as humanitarians. What can you do to change someone else's life or your own? After the trip I was more patient and understanding and less demanding of others. The people in the Dominican Republic have nothing compared to us in the US, but they had each other and happiness in living with what they had.
I returned appreciating the simplest things I took for granted in life. The most influential parts of my trip were two experiences - seeing how people survived at Dajabon (the border of Haiti and the Dom Rep) and teaching children in the Batey Maguaca. I have a rebirth in me to enjoy and appreciate not what I have, but the community of people I work and live in. I always knew there were people less fortunate than me, but I never really paid attention. I now have been volunteering with Imagine Syracuse and exploring ways to teach my children how to give back.