After a few days of getting reacquainted and planning the next phase of the project, we headed for the crash site where I was convinced I'd really lose it. We rounded a bend and stopped the car, and they said, "This is it." Really, this is it? Where was the angel-of-death feeling I was expecting? It was surprisingly anti-climactic, so I got out and went to the spot on the dirt where I was laying nearly a year ago and said to myself, "I'm done."
I took a mental inventory that night, and for the first time realized that I had been preventing my own healing because I was focused only on my own healing. I went back for closure to realize that I'd already found it and the reason I wasn't feeling my strength was just because I wasn't allowing myself to. It had become all about me. "I had a wreck! I can't walk! Help me! I'm hurt! Can't you see how helpless I am?" But my mind completely shifted that evening back to previous understanding that when I focus on myself, I lose every time.
I thought back to the time I felt invincible and strong; it was always when I shifted the focus to someone else. I felt powerful saying, "Let's take care of these Batwa," "These children in Cambodia need some help" or "These widows in Kenya could use some cows," but the time I focused on my own problems is when I felt my weakest.
We were scheduled to have a big celebration the next day and to reunite with the Batwa, and as we walked up the hill, all I could hear was their singing. I was back, both physically with the Batwa and mentally to myself. I bawled like a baby ('cause I'm like that) with gratitude to be home with these amazing people, and I could finally see that the project was more than worth it. We'd done our job—the gardens looked great, the chickens were laying eggs, Kilembe was safely in his house and we just danced and sang on our day of reunion. I felt whole again.
The next few days, we scoured the area for ways to expand the project, and I sent out my usual call for help: "We need more bees, chickens and seeds, and we need to buy an acre of land for Community 4!" And the generosity from people back home overwhelmed me. This is what I was really here for, to work for the Batwa, and we are now on track to exceed every goal we originally set.
Sometimes it takes awhile to learn what truly makes us happy, especially when diversions or obstacles get in the way, and I'm embarrassed to say that I'm still such a work in progress. It took getting hit by a truck to remind me that I do this not only to help where I can, but that it's also the basis for my personal strength and joy.
This is the last time I will write about me, the wreck or my experience to get back on track—that dead horse has been beaten, that story has been told, and I've learned my lessons—but it's no longer about me.
I look forward to future discussions about volunteering, how to create your own international aid project, the hope I have for hotels to find volunteer opportunities for their guests and especially to introduce you to some people and situations you may want to assist. But as for the struggles of poor old Barton, those days are done.
Barton Brooks is an international aid administrator and founder of the nonprofit volunteer organization Global Colors. His mission is to establish sustainable grassroots humanitarian aid projects around the world without the subjugating factors of time or previous experience. He calls this style of work "guerrilla aid." For more information, visit GlobalColors.org and GuerrillaAid.com.